Day 1 UBCM 2020: Diversity by Design

Local leaders and municipal stakeholders from across the province of British Columbia came together virtually today for the annual UBCM Convention. The Convention is hosted in the City of Victoria, although most of the speakers and all the delegates tuned-in remotely. Mayor Lisa Helps, City of Victoria, kicked off the Convention Opening Session by emphasizing that it is important now, more than ever before, to come together for dialogue and policy building.

This year’s convention theme is “Diversity by Design,” which implies diversity of experience, perspective, and creativity; the virtual platform and wide range of discussion topics and speakers perfectly illustrate the objective of this theme. During the President’s Address, Mayor Maja Tait, outlined UBCM plans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial focus was on adjusting the workplace so people could work safely, however, UBCM quickly persisted with existing efforts to acquire and deliver critical funding for local governments. UBCM also sought to create a dialogue with the provincial and federal government to address the financial impact of the pandemic. Days ago, the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia announced several large buckets of funding:

  • $540 million for local government operations as part of the Safe Restart Agreement.
    • $425 million allocated on a per-capita basis to local governments to directly address facility reopening and operating costs, emergency response costs, lost revenues, and other COVID-related impacts.
    • $100 million for the Strengthening Communities application-based grant program. Funding will be available for local governments to address the needs of vulnerable populations.
    • $15 million for the Development Services application-based grant program. Funding will be available to continue work identified through the Development Approvals Process Review (DAPR) and support efforts to improve efficiency of development approval processes.
  • $418 million to revitalize community infrastructure, enhance connections between communities and get people back to work.
    • $100 million within this stream is for the new Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program.
      • $30 million for community economic resilience.
      • $20 million to develop tourism infrastructure to help communities attract visitors.
      • $20 million to support economic recovery for rural communities.
      • $20 million for heritage infrastructure.
      • $10 million for the Aboriginal Head Start Program.
  • $1 billion for transit, TransLink, and BC Ferries.

This funding will be made available by early 2021 with further details about each program to be released this fall.

Under unusual circumstances, the annual convention has launched shortly after a provincial election was announced. Premier John Horgan surprised the public when he called a provincial election for October 24th. With little notice, UBCM managed to create a diverse panel to address the impending election. The tone of the discussion was veiled by a sense of regret for the government’s decision to launch an election, thus diverting attention away from the COVID-19 pandemic. The parties under the minority government created a cohesive partnership throughout the pandemic to prioritize the health of residents and a safe restart of the economy; however, the Premier contends that more stability is needed as the province moves ahead. Nevertheless, local leaders can be assured that the election will not interfere with the release of any funding.

Following sessions throughout the day included an impassioned discussion on the recovery and rebuild of public transit in British Columbia. While public transit has witnessed the most severe financial losses as a result of the pandemic, it remains an integral part of communities. This session was followed by a fatefully female led discussion on reimagining leadership using lessons learned from the pandemic. Qualities in leadership that were found to be the most effective during the pandemic include role modeling, inspiring, collective decision-making, and people developing. The speakers reflected upon Canadian values of kindness and community which were highly-present in our leadership throughout the pandemic. To close out the day, experts examined the pertinent topic of broadband internet connectivity and overcoming the barriers to access.

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