The 166th annual gathering of B.C. municipal politicians and officials kicks off in Vancouver Monday with the opioid crisis, money laundering, emergency management and First Nations reconciliation as key themes.
Outgoing Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) president Arjun Singh said the convention is a place for communities to gather to discuss common concerns.
“There’s obviously a lot going on around the forestry industry,” said Singh, a Kamloops city councillor. “We have worked with climate action and economic diversity. We’re working on energy planning, energy management. There’s a whole lot going on.”
Singh said his year at the UBCM helm has been “the honour of a lifetime.”
Main speakers at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) event include the leaders of the province’s three main political parties as well as a keynote address from former CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge.
It’s at the convention that local government delegates from throughout B.C. debate municipal issue. Resolutions from those debates go toward lobbying Victoria on provincial issues.
On Monday morning, Finance Minister Carole James, Attorney General David Eby, Simon Fraser University School of Public Policy professor Maureen Maloney and RCMP Supt. Paul Dadwal from the B.C. Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit will discuss investigative, prosecutorial and regulatory changes needed to build a more effective anti-money laundering regime. A focus will be on disrupting the illegal activity of money laundering in B.C. real estate.
On Monday afternoon, following an address by Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson, Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall will chair a panel on the effects of the opioid crisis across the province and initiatives to help address the crisis. Panellists include provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy.
On Tuesday, the topic shifts to ride-hailing, and what B.C. municipalities can expect as app-based transportation moves into high gear. Later in the day, the provincial climate change plan and adaptation strategy come into the spotlight.
Homelessness and housing, another provincial hot-button issue, takes centre stage on Thursday with two sessions examining various facets of the topic.
The conference won’t be without controversy as the UBCM decided earlier this year to continue to take Chinese government money, but organizers say they’re going to review how the annual convention is financed. The Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver has been a major reception sponsor for the annual convention for years.