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Union of BC Municipalities conference develops advocacy policies

Delegates support three of four local resolutions
TEAM EFFORT: The last meeting at the Union of BC Municipalities conference for City of Powell River mayor Dave Formosa [second from left] and councillors [from left] Jim Palm, Rob Southcott, Karen Skadsheim, CaroleAnn Leishman and Maggie Hathaway was with Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons [third from left] and BC New Democratic Party leader John Horgan [third from right]. Councillor Russell Brewer was not available for the photo. Contributed photo

City of Powell River councillors returned home from the Union of BC Municipalities conference having secured support for resolutions on a moratorium on the BC herring fishery, promoting a province-wide poverty reduction strategy and government-sponsored prostate cancer testing.

The weeklong conference brings together municipal councils and regional district boards from local governments around the province to network, develop policy for advocating to the provincial government, meet with a variety of cabinet ministers and opposition critics, and attend workshops.

Powell River’s resolutions on closing the BC herring fishery and promoting the idea of a province-wide poverty reduction strategy passed on the convention floor.

In speaking with other delegates, two themes stuck out for City of Powell River councillor Russell Brewer, including the province’s low-level of funding support for local infrastructure and the greater need for local governments to become more involved in housing initiatives and other areas traditionally in the realm of provincial and federal governments.

“There’s still a large gap between what the province thinks it is addressing on the social issues side and what the needs of the municipalities are, that was pretty clear,” said Brewer.

City of Powell River mayor Dave Formosa, who spearheaded Powell River’s resolution on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, said that while the floor supported the notion of wider and more accessible testing for men, the reality is that the provincial government may not move ahead with the idea, despite wide support from the convention delegates.

The test costs about $50, but Formosa explained the results are too inconclusive. Of all the tests that show heightened PSA levels, only approximately 30 per cent of the men tested actually have prostate cancer, said Formosa.

“It’s going to be a difficult one to get the ministry to pay for these tests,” he said.

Despite the low levels of accuracy, Formosa said he would still like to see the test available to all men. “We’re still better off to do it,” he said.

Men who do not have a family history of the disease are required to pick up the tab for the test, said Formosa. BC Ministry of Health paid for more than 250,000 tests last year, he added.

Though the city’s three resolutions passed, Powell River Regional District’s one resolution did not. The resolution was to amend the Local Government Act to allow for by-elections when directors are unable to perform their duties due to long-term illness.

Regional district board chair and Electoral Area A director Patrick Brabazon said it did not pass because delegates raised questions of whether local governments should have the power to look into people’s medical records. There was also talk of the invasion of people’s human rights.

“None of which is valid,” said Brabazon. “It failed because the speakers went off track.”

Brabazon said that where the regional district’s resolution failed, it found success in its ministerial meetings.

“You don’t come out of these meetings with hard and fast decisions,” he said.

Despite that, he said environment minister Mary Polak said she would make sure action would be taken on the regional district’s solid-waste plan when it comes across her desk.

Brabazon said the last plan “disappeared into the void down there in Victoria.” He said without the ministry’s approval, the regional district would be at risk of losing the more than $6 million it received for the proposed resource-recovery centre and the remediation of the old incinerator site near Willingdon Beach.

“I’m expecting good results on that and we’ll get moving on cleaning up the Willingdon site,” he said.

One Powell River delegate took some heat for his comments while in Victoria for the conference. Regional district Electoral Area C director Colin Palmer was publicly criticized for his outspoken stance against local governments adopting gender-neutral language.

“These people who have no authority are going around changing my language,” said Palmer about his comments. “That’s what I get upset about. I just stood up and said I was annoyed.”