Mayor reports on Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference

as the mayor sees it with District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys - report on UBCM

The annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference starts on Sept. 16. During the week long event elected officials of local government meet and vote on a multitude of resolutions. These resolutions range from items around public safety to election procedures and everything in between. Most resolutions are first brought to the various local government associations around the province and debated there.  The resolutions that are endorsed go to the UBCM to be further debated and if successful are presented to the Provincial government for action.

Logic would dictate that any resolution that makes it all the way through the process would receive immediate attention from the Province. For the most part this is not the case. This does not mean that the Province does not give proper attention to the issues brought to them from the UBCM. In some cases the issues require legislative changes and those wheels grind very, very slowly for good reason.

In other cases, the issue or project may require a tremendous expenditure of public funds. This is never done lightly or quickly and with good reason. The money must be found within the existing budget. If there is no money to be had and the issue or project is of pressing need, then either another project is cancelled or the money is raised. Generally, the only source of revenue that government has is through taxation and, well, we can see where this is going.

Every project or issue that a government takes on requires funding. There are precious few that are free. Right here in Barriere there are a number of projects that are underway that require funding for one reason or another. We were very fortunate to have received a grant to start providing sewer services. That grant will cover the building of the waste water treatment system and allow us to start on the collection system that serves each residence.

The grant, however, is just the beginning. Money must be put away to repair and replace the system as it wears out.  In some cities this planning for the future was not done. Now the worse cases of this lack of foresight are facing what seem to be insurmountable costs. In some cases the local government throws up its hands and says that the city is bankrupt. They want help from someone else. I wonder who they think that someone else is?

You often hear there is only one taxpayer. A simple concept that most of us agree with. No matter where we live or who we are, we pay taxes of one sort or another. Even if you rent you pay the taxes on the property because your landlord budgets a portion of rent, to pay the taxes. Even if you live “for free” with your parents you pay taxes. Those taxes are hidden in the cost of the potato chips, cigarettes and alcohol you purchase but don’t share with your benefactors. I digress.

Taxes are never a simple or fun topic. Most local officials never have enough time in office to truly master the process. Not their fault usually, since some are only in office for one term. Some do want to serve for longer periods. They may try to make hard decisions, but are lured into doing what they feel will get them elected for another term.

It is very simple for elected officials to be led lead astray trying to please the voters that put them in office. It is so easy to say yes to the group petitioning for a recreation facility. Look at that, some say, there were 15 people with placards and a petition for a new pool. They must represent the whole community since usually only two residents usually come to the Council meeting! It is here that reason should kick in and the question asked that nobody wants to address. What about the other 1285 voters that are not here? Are they willing to raise taxes to pay for the pool?

We do live in a democracy. Democracy is not an armchair sport. It only works when people participate. New pool or no pot holes. How do you want your tax dollars spent?