ELECTION 2014: Mayoral candidates tee off over UBCM relevance

The convention involves a series of workshops and provides the chance for local governments to come together and take a united position

While city council is spending the week in Whistler representing the city at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention, the mayor is notably absent.

Mayor Walter Jakeway told the Mirror two weeks ago that he would not be attending the conference because he believes it’s a waste of time and taxpayers’ money – something he reiterated to Lower Mainland media last week.

Coun. Andy Adams said he couldn’t disagree more and stressed that the convention has always been “very productive” for Campbell River and will continue to be.

“It really helps Campbell River position itself on a provincial basis,” Adams said from Whistler Monday afternoon. “I think there’s incredible value for those who are here and it’s a detriment to those who aren’t here.”

There are 1,531 registered attendees at this year’s UBCM which runs from Sept. 22-26. The convention involves a series of workshops and provides the chance for local governments to come together and take a united position. Decisions such as extending council terms to four years as well as moving upcoming municipal election dates to October have all been decided at past UBCM conventions.

Adams said UBCM also provides the rare opportunity for city councils and regional districts to meet with provincial ministers and ministry staff; often it’s a chance to secure provincial funding for key city projects.

Adams said, in his nine years on council, UBCM has been good for Campbell River.

“As a result of meetings at the UBCM we got the support and approval for two new hospitals – one in Campbell River and one in the Comox Valley,” Adams said. “Also at the UBCM conference we got funding for the airport runway extension.”

It was at the UBCM that the John Hart Generating Station replacement project was secured and where the city worked out an agreement with the province to partner on upgrading Highway 19A through Willow Point, according to Adams. This year, city councillors plan to meet with minister of forests, lands and natural resources Steve Thomson to discuss plans for a community forest, as well as how to position Campbell River to take advantage of the resurgence of the forest industry on the coast.

Adams said council will also meet with the minister of natural gas development, Rich Coleman, to discuss LNG and future opportunities with Quicksilver LNG, the new owner of the former Catalyst mill site.

As the minister responsible for housing, council also plans to discuss with Coleman the city’s recent land swap with Discovery Chiropractic to facilitate a new sobering centre for the city’s homeless and most vulnerable.

Finally, Adams said council intends to meet with the minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services.

“We’re also meeting with Minister (Andrew) Wilkinson on the impacts of the lack of Internet connectivity and how it’s stalling the Creative Industries initiative to bring technology industries to Campbell River,” Adams said. “For example, Team Generous – which is here right now (working on a Habitat for Humanity promo video) – if we had improved connectivity, would be able to do a lot more.”

Adams said all of the upcoming meetings are just a snapshot of the value of the UBCM.

“You just don’t get the opportunities to meet with the ministers and their staff other than at UBCM,” Adams said.