Passing the torch during a pandemic

In a departure from the conventional podium speech, UBCM’s President Maja Tait sat down with 1st Vice President Brian Frankel, on camera, to review and discuss the organization’s past year. Councillor Frankel will inherit Mayor Tait’s presidential responsibilities at the culmination of this week’s Convention.

Frankel asked how local government planning and priorities had to be reconfigured in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tait pointed to local governments’ immediate and dramatic loss of variable revenue – parking, casinos, recreation centres. The impacts varied from one community to the next. “It seemed that the mid-size and large size communities were impacted the most, with some revisiting their budget or laying off staff.”    

She gave credit to the province for responding with a package of interim financial measures to provide certainty and flexibility, which provided some relief.

Transit services were uniquely impacted, she said. “We worked closely with the Mayor’s Council, BC Transit, TransLink and transit communities - including hosting a public transit forum in June - to quantify the losses and support advocacy both provincially and federally,” leading to the recent announcement of over a billion dollars for public transit and BC Ferries. Additionally, $540 million is earmarked for local government operations. “These are massive commitments by the federal and provincial governments,” said Tait.

Tait asked Frankel about his work on the province’s consultation with local government as an order of government in matters of land use and resource management. Local governments have endorsed the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) principles, he explained, but are consistently finding their own role reduced to stakeholder status during consultation processes. “Every provincial ministry needs to work with local government as an order of government and local governments need a clear role in the implementation of UNDRIP,” he said.

Tait also described her work as part of FCM’s International program, personally leading workshops to develop the leadership of women in Cambodia. “I was thrilled to be able to represent UBCM in this rewarding work,” she said.

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