Vancouver – The annual UBCM Union of BC Municipalities meeting has wrapped up in Vancouver for this year.
The UBCM was formed to provide a common voice for local government and this role is as important today as it was 100 years ago. The UBCM reflects the truth in the old adages “strength in numbers” and “united we stand – divided we fall”.
Convention continues to be the main forum for UBCM policy-making. It provides an opportunity for local governments of all sizes and from all areas of the province to come together, share their experiences and take a united position.
Positions developed by members are carried to other orders of government and other organizations involved in local affairs. Policy implementation activities have expanded from annual presentations to Cabinet to UBCM involvement in intergovernmental committees, regular meetings with Ministers and contact on a daily basis with senior government.
In today’s ever-changing world, where shifts in senior government policies, or in economic, social or political conditions, can have an immediate effect on local government, UBCM stands as a “listening post”. UBCM initiates, monitors, interprets and reacts where such changes could have an effect on local governments and the communities they serve.
The result is improved local government and BC’s communities are the real winners. Through the UBCM, local government has achieved much, and the potential is always there to achieve even more.
Among the topics, resolutions and decision included:
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz has been elected Third Vice-President of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
A number of municipalities, especially Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, expressed concern that when the time comes for the Federal Government to pass their marijuana legalization legislation, the prime ALR land could be used for the cultivation of cannabis and not “traditional” agriculture, such as vegetables, fruit, hay etc.
Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan says B.C. will meet the federal timeline to implement the legalization of recreational marijuana. Horgan said B.C. won’t be asking Ottawa to push back its July 2018 goal for pot legalization.
“We’re well advanced on the distribution of marijuana over the years, whether it be through dispensaries, whether it be through the black market. I’m anxious to get the black market out of community.”
The B.C. government has committed $66 million toward 600 units of modular housing, which will be situated on land provided by the City of Vancouver. The modular units will be staffed 24/7 by non-profit housing providers and will include support services to help people in need stabilize and rebuild their lives.
This is part of the Province’s plan to construct 2,000 modular units over two years throughout B.C. by working in partnership with interested communities. The first 1,000 units are expected to be in operation by early 2018.
BC Housing is in discussion with a number of other communities that are in immediate need of modular housing for the homeless, including Surrey and Smithers.
Concerning the overdose crisis:
- Community crisis innovation fund: To support nimble, innovative, community-based actions with an immediate impact on the ground, the government will introduce a new community crisis innovation fund. The fund will be available to introduce measures, such as targeted community-based prevention or early-intervention programs, or innovative harm-reduction and treatment approaches to keep people safe and support people seeking help.
New funding: $3 million in 2017-18 and $6 million each year in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- Scaling up rapid-access community treatment: To make sure that help is available when people are ready to start on a path to recovery, health authorities are scaling up rapid access to medication treatments for opioid addiction. They are expanding the hours of and opening new addictions clinics in Vancouver, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Langley. Clinics in Surrey and Maple Ridge are now also offering faster, easier access.
New funding: additional funding details are still being finalized on expanded access to opioid addiction treatment under the $322 million investment, including rapid-access addictions clinics and specialized substance use hubs in the regions most affected.
- Broader access to no-cost naloxone kits: To make kits more widely available than ever, the Take Home Naloxone Program is working with the B.C. Pharmacy Association to establish new distribution sites at community pharmacies throughout the province. British Columbians who use opioids or are likely to respond to an overdose will be able to get free kits at pharmacies by the end of the year. More naloxone training opportunities and additional new distribution locations around the province are also being planned.
New funding: $2 million each year in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- Support for those on the front lines: To provide ongoing support for first responders and people working to save lives, the government has allocated sustainable annual funding to support the work of the newly established Mobile Response Team. The team provides training, education and crisis response to support the mental and emotional health of staff and volunteers of community-based organizations responding to multiple overdoses.
New funding: $1.7 million each year in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- Public awareness campaign: To expand the reach of a new public awareness campaign, the government is establishing partnerships with WorkSafeBC, B.C. Restaurant & Food Services Association and BC Building Trades Council ― and others to come on board in the near future. The campaign will be launched in the coming weeks, with a particular focus on reaching men aged 30 to 60, the group most at risk of overdose, and reducing stigma about addiction. The partnerships are designed to create new, targeted avenues for building awareness on how to stay safe and where to reach out for support.
New funding: $2 million in 2017-18 and $2.37 million in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Action is also being taken to protect public safety and cut off illegal fentanyl supplies. $31.3 million has been allocated over three years to critical enforcement and public safety initiatives, including:
- New dedicated anti-trafficking teams within the provincial RCMP and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC), with additional officers and support staff. This puts more boots on the ground to go after, arrest and prosecute dangerous and violent drug traffickers to disrupt the drug supply line in communities.
- Resources for all police agencies for enforcement activity against organized crime importers and traffickers, through the province’s gang unit (CFSEU-BC), including more funding for projects that specifically target traffickers, to stem the flow of fentanyl into B.C.
- Increased support for police-based outreach in their communities and funding for multidisciplinary approaches to bring together mental health, social service and police agencies to proactively reach people who are seen to be of elevated risk.
- Additional funding for the BC Coroners Service to expand the Drug-Death Investigations Team, to help resolve backlog and meet the significant increase in workload and lab testing. This will provide timely, accurate data to inform new strategies in this public health crisis.
The BC Coroners Service has reported 876 illegal drug overdose deaths in B.C. in 2017 to date, with fentanyl detected in 81% of cases.
Attracting Amazon to BC:
The Province is contributing to a regional Metro Vancouver bid to play host to Amazon’s second headquarters, Amazon HQ2, which could generate US$5 billion in investment and create up to 50,000 jobs in B.C., announced Premier John Horgan at the UBCM convention today.
The B.C. government is committing $50,000 to help Metro Vancouver partners, including the cities of Surrey and Vancouver, prepare their submission to Amazon’s request for proposal (RFP) for a second headquarters in North America.
“Metro Vancouver, particularly Surrey, has a robust tech sector that attracts and develops new talent through our world-class post-secondary institutions,” said Linda Hepner, mayor of Surrey. “When you factor in the region’s growth, strategic location and high quality of life, I am confident our bid will undoubtedly show why Metro Vancouver is the ideal and smart choice for Amazon’s second headquarters in North America.”
“The Amazon HQ2 bid represents a significant opportunity to highlight the strategic competitive advantage this region offers to a global business leader like Amazon,” said Greg Moore, board chair of Metro Vancouver.
Daylight Savings Time:
Premier John Horgan has no intention on ending Daylight Saving Time, despite a proposal by the Union of BC Municipalities to scrap the annual time change.