General Policies - Introduction

THE CHALLENGE

Each and every local government in B.C. has grown to fit the needs of its residents - and this is its strength. It is a strength born out of the "grass roots" traditions of local government - its sensitivity to the aspirations of the community, the public's accessibility to local government, and local government's ability to respond to local needs and to be held accountable for its decisions. These are their strengths and are the foundations of a democratic society. But the task of local government has never been that simple. Local governments throughout B.C. face increasing problems in meeting the needs of their communities. Yet in the diversity of local government lies common ground. Many of the problems that local governments face in meeting their communities needs are not unique - they are shared by all local governments. A common thread in these problems are two challenges that threaten the very strengths of local government:

1.
Challenges to local government's ability to fulfill its responsibilities; due in part to:
  • the restricted revenue base of local government;
  • a legislative framework that does not give local government adequate authority to meet local needs and a legislative basis that is slow and resistant to change in a time of rapidly changing roles of government;
  • a growing imbalance between the demands for local government services and the financial resources available to local government;
  • a growing concern about the lack of power and resources to effectively enforce local decisions;
2.
Challenges to the place of local government in the overall system of government; due in part to:
  • an out-dated system of intergovernmental relations;
  • a more complex governmental system with blurred lines of jurisdiction, responsibilities and authority; and,
  • increasing provincial regulatory power over and above the written laws.
  • further prospects of transfers or "downloading" of responsibilities to local government.

THE PROSPECT

If these problems go unresolved, local government will become less able to serve the needs of the public. The effective and efficient delivery of local services will erode and the public will lose confidence in government and in its ability to provide the services that are needed. The system of government will suffer if local government is relegated to a minor, subservient role. In the end, it is the public that will suffer if they are served by weak local government.

THE RESPONSE - A COMMON STRATEGY

This is not a prospect that is welcomed by local government in British Columbia. Nor should it be welcomed by the public or the other levels of government. A loss of confidence in local government is loss of confidence in a government itself and the ability of a community of common interests to reach their shared goals.

Local governments throughout B.C. have recognized that the only way to turn this situation around is to work together. Through the Union of B.C. Municipalities, local government must develop a common strategy - a strategy that sets out the actions that are needed if they are to succeed in creating the type of local government that will best serve the public.

Such strategy can only be developed and successfully pursued if there is a clear understanding of the common position of local government. The general policies of the UBCM are intended to provide this direction. But the direction a specific policy statement gives cannot be viewed independently from other policies. Taken together, the policy statements reinforce one another and give the true direction of the UBCM.

The general policies (which are highlighted in bold type) focus on the two concerns that are central to UBCM's role in improving the system of local government:

(1) FRAMEWORK FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
what jobs should local government perform and what "tools" does it need to do that job.

(2) INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS
how local government should relate to other levels of government.

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