President’s Message: Area Associations Identify Emerging Themes

Having completed the 2014 Area Association circuit, I am struck by the beauty of our province and the energy of those involved as either elected officials or staff at the Local Government level. Each region of the province is working hard to support economic development while maintaining focus on the social, environmental and public safety needs of our communities.

This balance of concerns can be seen in the issues that received multiple resolutions from the 2014 Area Association meetings. When I attended NCLGA in Fort St. John, I was amazed to see the development that is already underway in the ramp up for LNG. A number of resolutions that will come forward to the 2014 UBCM Convention highlight the needs of communities as they prepare for LNG development. Resolutions brought forward on BC Ferries cuts draw attention to the need for further assessment of the economic impact of these decisions on local communities. Several resolutions related to the Agricultural Land Reserve reflect concerns within the agricultural sector. The developing industry for medical marijuana, and the need to revisit the assessment of these industrial properties, was also a topic of several resolutions.

In the area of public safety, the transport of hazardous materials, projected cuts to BC Ambulance service and sprinkler protection in the building code solicited multiple resolutions. Concern for environmental sustainability, and the need to balance economic concerns with safeguarding the environment continues to be significant resolutions theme. Strengthening community social support also featured in several resolutions calling a renewed social policy framework.

While there are many similarities in the opportunities and challenges facing communities throughout the province, I do not want to underplay the differences. In some cases communities can barely keep pace with the growth that is underway, while others cope with declining industries and populations. In both cases, local government leaders are engaged and working with an eye to the long-term interests of their communities.

I appreciated the opportunity to provide an update at every Area Association meeting on UBCM's key advocacy priorities. As we move towards Convention in September, we are seeking a commitment from the province for a joint committee to move forward on the Strong Fiscal Futures report. The renewal of infrastructure programs also remains a high priority. The program delivery model and other details for the renewed Gas Tax Agreement will be announced very soon.

To all of the host communities and association presidents, staff, community volunteers and tourism industry professionals that made each annual meeting a success - thank you again for your wonderful hospitality.

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