EDITORIAL: One taxpayer

The UBCM convention is a chance for mayors and councillors to get some face time with ministers

There are many ways to view the value of the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which local politicians and senior municipal staff attended last week in Vancouver.

We will try to avoid a cynical default position that labels the gathering as a taxpayer-paid junket allowing local politicians to schmooze with each other and provincial-decision makers.

First and foremost, this is a chance for local mayors and councillors to get some face time with ministers who can influence where the money in the provincial kitty is allocated.

Around here, that means Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek can plead his community’s case regarding waterfront rejuvenation. The erosion of that town’s waterfront, it could be easily argued, is just as much of a provincial and federal concern as it is municipal.

Meanwhile, Parksville Mayor Chris Burger can use the UBCM to seek funding for a colossally-expensive water treatment and supply project for the city. (See Thursday’s edition of The NEWS for more on what local politicians say about their time at the UBCM).

Meanwhile, delegates can push the provincial government — supposedly with the might of a unified group of local, on-the-ground politicians — to consider B.C.-wide measure they believe will be good for our communities, things like changes in speed limits or liquor laws.

Thing is, it’s the same situation every year. News comes out of the UBCM about what changes local politicians want to see, and the provincial government takes them under consideration and does what it feels is proper, or fits its agenda, or can be handled financially. What often gets lost is the fact there is only one taxpayer. Local governments and their politicians often speak about ‘leveraging’ and ‘seeking’ funds from senior governments like there’s a different pool of money coming from a different source.

The problem is we are over-governed, to the extreme. And all these governments have expensive staff people, once again paid for by the one taxpayer. Your house in this region is governed, if you will, by a couple of municipal governments (city or town plus RDN) and various water and fire districts, a provincial government and a federal government.

It would be nice to hear a local politician say it like it is, just once: we are going to the UBCM to see if we can wrestle some of your money away from the provincial government.                           — Editorial by John Harding