After guiding the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention through hundreds of debates and votes by a glitch-prone province-wide video conference, Vanderhoof councillor Brian Frenkel took on the leadership of the group for what promises to be a difficult year for local councils.
Frenkel succeeded Sooke Mayor Maja Tait as UBCM president Thursday (Sept. 24), with encouraging words for delegates after a convention disrupted by a sudden provincial election call on the event’s first day. The convention had already gone through a jump to online delivery due to COVID-19, and then the election disrupted its key function, hundreds of meetings with cabinet ministers who had to campaign for re-election instead.
Meetings with ministers were set up the previous week as part of the online arrangements for the convention.
“I have to tell you, when we started talking about a virtual convention back in May, I was like, who’s really going to sign up?” Frenkel said from an almost empty Victoria Conference Centre. “But I’ve got an answer for that today. We had over 1,000 delegates and local government officials sign up for our convention.”
Frenkel listed highlights of the first virtual convention, including provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s disclosure that she has dealt with harassment and even death threats while imposing orders and restrictions that have kept the coronavirus pandemic under control in B.C. He passed on a quote from author Margaret Atwood, the convention keynote speaker who had this advice for delegates: “Local government, you’d better get out your casseroles.”
Frenkel stressed the non-partisan role of the UBCM, which has increased its importance in recent years, administering provincial programs.
“As we fight our way through COVID-19 and any other issue that might arise in the future, I am very confident in UBCM’s relationship with the provincial government,” Frenkel said. “In just over a month, we will know which party will form government, and who our next premier will be. Regardless of which party or which leader, the executive of UBCM will reach out to all parties and all MLAs to communicate the shared priorities of our membership.”
He congratulated Tait on serving through a pandemic that has severely affected communities and businesses, while handling her community’s needs and those of a young child as well.
“I need to really thank the District of Vanderhoof, mayor and council and staff there, because without you still holding up the fort at home, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.