The City of Revelstoke delegation to the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention last week took a break from lobby sessions with provincial government and instead focused on networking with fellow municipalities and taking in the displays, sessions and resources at the Vancouver convention.
Revelstoke mayor David Raven sat down with the Times Review Monday morning for a recap of the week-long event.
Check out www.revelstoketimesreview.com for detailed stories on some of the headline-grabbing issues from the convention, such as the proposed municipal auditor-general, RCMP in B.C. contract negotiations and BC Hydro smart meters. This story focuses on the City of Revelstoke’s perspective on these and other issues, as represented by mayor Raven.
Resort Municipality Initiative funding
The 14 municipalities each have a slightly different take on the Resort Municipality Initiative, which has again been thrown into question with the defeat of the HST. Prior to the HST, the initiative kicked back a small percentage of hotel tax funding to the 14 designated resort municipalities for tourism infrastructure projects. Revelstoke used it on projects like the Boulder Mountain snowmobile cabin, The Mt. Macpherson Nordic ski lodge, the Frisby Ridge bike trail and more. When the HST was announced, the program continued on a grants-based system. Now, it’s up in the air. “We’re hoping with the funding source as it is now continues,” Raven said, favouring the existing grant formula. He added each municipality had their own take based on their particular circumstances, but Revelstoke was “fairly happy with our delivery mechanism.”
Each municipality has different views on requirements for allocations between capital and operational funding, using the money for things like resort shuttles, or requirements for the local body that makes final funding decisions.
RCMP in B.C. contract negotiations
Mayor Raven was “surprised” that a rift between provincial and federal negotiators over the state of B.C. RCMP contract negotiations was aired in the media during the convention. The UBCM has been lobbying on behalf of the issues for municipalities across the province. The behind-closed-doors negotiations have consistently been a focus of attention in the UBCM’s newsletter over the past couple of years. Mayor Raven said he was not supportive of a local police force. “I would hope not,” he said. “as much as I like the local officers.” He added that continuing with the RCMP made the most sense, “as long as it’s cost-effective.”
Although municipal delegates overwhelmingly voted to oppose premier Christy Clark’s proposed municipal auditor-general, mayor Raven said he could support the concept, with several asterisks attached.
The overarching concern is the province would use the auditor as a tool to further dictate where municipalities are to spend their share of provincial funding. “Are they auditing political and social decisions that each community will make?” he asked, saying he wasn’t supportive of this concept.
He said support for the concept would depend on details of the proposed auditor’s mandate. For example, the City of Revelstoke recently balked at conducting a ‘value for money’ audit on civic operations, citing costs and worry about the effectiveness of the audit. Raven said provincial authorities have said costs for the new auditor’s services wouldn’t be borne by the municipalities. If this were the case, the city would be interested in utilizing the resource for that kind of audit. “We would welcome it and say fine, did we get value for our money?” Raven said. “But we’re not going to be too keen on the auditor general telling us where to spend between [this or that] program.”
He added: “It is possible to do audits and have no value in them.”
BC Hydro smart meters
Mayor Raven said this attention-grabber served as a distraction, saying he supported modernizing the grid, preventing theft and using the technological benefits to “create efficiencies.”
As for concerns about public safety, he said it should be put into context. “Just how serious is that one second every five hours [or] six hours?” he questioned. “I just didn’t see it as being that big an issue. There’s much more serious things that I’m worried about.” Despite his opposition, delegates voted 55 per cent in favour of a moratorium on the BC Hydro program that calls for the mandatory installation of smart meters.
BC Hydro plans to begin the installations in Revelstoke in late spring or early summer of 2012.
City delegates also met with representatives from Golden to coordinate Trans-Canada Highway lobby efforts ahead of their upcoming lobby excursion to Ottawa. They also clarified the fixed link issue with representatives from Nakusp, saying that Revelstoke has chosen to focus on the Trans-Canada because that’s where the commercial traffic issues and fatalities are.