Strathcona Regional District Director Jim Abram has been elected to the executive of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
Abram was elected director at large last Friday during the UBCM convention held in Vancouver last week.
Abram, director for Area C (Quadra Island) and chair of the regional district board, was one of 12 nominees from across B.C. vying for five positions.
Abram, who has been a regional district director since 1988, has served on the executive in the past, with his last 10-year stint ending in 2002. In 2000-01 he served as president.
“I’m extremely pleased I was able to make a come back,” Abram said. “I did a lot of campaigning and talking to people. There was roughly a changeover of about 30 per cent in directors from the previous election, so a lot of new people. Out of 1,700 delegates at the convention, there’s a lot of people you don’t know.”
The convention brings together city councillors, regional district directors and other elected officials from across B.C. UBCM is the only province-wide lobby organization for local governments to discuss common issues and advocate various positions to the provincial and federal governments.
Abram said sitting on the executive will give him the chance to put forward issues of local concern, and represent local and provincial concerns at the UBCM table and to the province.
One of his main goals as a member of the executive is to lessen the province’s influence on UBCM.
“As time was going on, I felt like UBCM was getting more and more provincial involvement from the ministry at our forums and more time was getting taken up by provincial government programs,” Abram said. “I felt strongly about that and I thought we needed to get back on track. Not to criticize past executives, they did what they had to do, but I thought UBCM had to be brought back to the people it was representing, and that’s us – local government.”
Abram said he feels strongly about getting control back from the province.
“The provincial government in past years, every program they’ve said is important is about control. Whether it’s campaign financing, our executive members’ compensation, the auditor general for local government – all of those issues are about control over local government,” Abram said. “Why is the provincial government, which is out of complete control, trying to control local government, why are they afraid of us?”
Abram is also in the midst of trying to come up with solutions to issues specific to the region.
“My first priorities at the convention were to represent my constituents and then the SRD board,” Abram said. “I met with ministers and their staff on issues such as connectivity (fibre optics, cell and data) and all issues concerning seniors including funding for much needed programs. I also met with the representative of the premier and with Minister Todd Stone regarding our ferry situation and its effect on all communities on the coast and provincially.”
As an executive member for UBCM, Abram will have his work cut out for him.
He also sits on three UBCM select committees providing input on BC Ferries, fin-fish aquaculture, and offshore oil and gas. As well, Abram sits on two UBCM standing committees – the resolutions committee and the environment committee. He is also a member of the Coastal Regional District Chairs group which is made up of 13 chairs from all of the regional districts on the coast.