Island puts resolutions on the table at municipal convention

Everything from affordable housing to climate change will be up for debate as municipal politicians gather in Powell River this weekend for the annual Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention.

“I think it’s really important,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said of the AVICC resolutions which, if passed, are fed to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for consideration.

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“The province takes the UBCM very seriously and resolutions that come through there have a good chance of being acted on,” she said. “It’s our one opportunity per year to speak as a united voice — local government to the province.”

Helps said a resolution from the Comox Valley Regional District is “brilliant.” It calls for distribution of the $2 billion collected annually through the provincial property transfer tax to local governments to address affordable housing issues.

Victoria will have several resolutions up for debate, including a call to allow youths as young as 16 and another for non-citizen permanent residents to be given the right to vote in local-government elections.

The province moved quickly when the UBCM passed a resolution to end union and corporate donations to local- government election campaigns, Helps said, so the calls for voting changes, if supported, might spur action.

Victoria also has a couple of resolutions relating to illicit drug use.

One calls on the province to work with communities and health authorities to ensure that people at risk of overdose due to unpredictable drug supply have access to safer alternatives. The other calls for the provision of supervised inhalation sites to help prevent overdoses.

Helps said she tends to support resolutions put forward by smaller local governments.

“Because I feel that sometimes small areas can get overlooked,” she said. “So unless there’s really good reason not to, I tend to lend my support to the needs of the smaller local governments across the region.”

The Sunshine Coast Regional District is recommending delegates urge the province to declare a province-wide climate emergency.

Among other resolutions up for debate:

• Esquimalt is recommending coastal, river-front and lake-shore communities incorporate existing boating access infrastructure into community planning.

• Qualicum Beach, noting that seniors comprise 17 per cent of the country’s population but account for 47 per cent of Canada’s health care spending, want demographic data included in determining health transfer payments to the provinces.

• The Village of Cumberland would like to see the province allow development cost charges to be applied to expansion of fire protection infrastructure.

• Sooke is proposing that the provincial legislation be amended to change the definition of newspapers, in which municipalities are required to advertise certain notices, to allow the use of certain online publications.

• Victoria wants municipalities to have the authority to introduce a surtax on vacant properties and provide the discretion to introduce an additional tax to discourage vacant and derelict buildings.

• Victoria is also calling on the province to provide timely funding to restore Island rail service.

• Courtenay is suggesting that a portion of the B.C. Liquor Tax be provided to local governments to be used toward policing.

• Powell River would like to see the province implement an environmental fee for all single-use plastic products and packaged goods.

• The Sunshine Coast Regional District is calling for the province to give regional districts the authority to regulate and enforce parking on provincial roads and rights of way.

• The Port Alberni Regional District wants the province to close gaps in cellular service in remote communities and along rural highways.

Premier John Horgan is slated to address the convention Friday afternoon. A number of workshops are planned on transportation, taxation and the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Operating under the umbrella of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities represents local governments including regional districts on Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, Powell River, the North Coast and the Central Coast.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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