Photo courtesy of UBCM.

UBCM considers voting age, overdose epidemic

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott made a funding request for widening of shoulders on local roadways during a meeting with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last week in Vancouver.

He cited Anderton north of Guthrie, as well as Knight Road as examples of narrow road shoulders.

“Given that we have an active biking population combined with the ever-increasing use of electric bikes that help us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we need funding provincially to help us with the costs,” Arnott said.

He also attended a conference about ride sharing, which he said is needed locally, but doubts if the Comox Valley will see it anytime soon, considering the red tape involved. Arnott spoke to a representative from Lyft, who said the Class 4 licence requirement is holding back applicants.

Delegates at the week-long convention endorsed a resolution from the Comox Valley Regional District to petition the Province to re-distribute the property transfer tax to local governments, each year, to address affordable housing initiatives.

Also endorsed was a Courtenay resolution requesting a portion of the B.C. Liquor Tax to help fund policing costs. Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells and members of council discussed this and other funding streams with Finance Minister Carole James.

He would like to see B.C. follow Saskatchewan’s lead where government shares one per cent of the sales tax with municipalities.

“Municipalities can spend it how they please,” Wells said.

He also forwarded a motion for a provincial tent city strategy.

“Putting that money out there to try to address the addictions and mental health side of things.”

The UBCM executive endorsed a resolution mirroring a Cumberland request to use development cost charges to expand fire protection infrastructure.

“There were a lot of discussions about how little money we (municipalities) get from federal or provincial,” Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird said. “We’ve gone down to eight cents on the dollar (from 10 cents), and we’re expected to do more with that. They keep downloading things to us but not giving us money. We’ve been looking everywhere to fund firehalls. Unfortunately, the federal government does not consider that as part of infrastructure. My comment to that is, we would not be needing expanded equipment or firehalls if it wasn’t for the fact that new residents are coming into town. So they should be paying some funds for that. We’ve been told that if we build any more taller buildings, we have to have a ladder truck. That’s all new development. That’s who should be paying, not the residents now.”

Delegates also endorsed a resolution from Victoria to lower the voting age to 16. In 2011 and 2006, UBCM had rejected calls to lower the voting age to 17.

“These kids are given driver’s licences, and expected to be adults,” Wells said. “They pay taxes, they get jobs, and yet they aren’t able to vote. I’m certainly in favour. If we look at voter turnout, I think traditionally it’s been pretty lacklustre at best, especially the municipal level. There’s certainly room for improvement at the provincial and federal levels as well. Right now, I think youth are really showing how they can be engaged.”

The opioid overdose epidemic was the focus of conversation at the BC Mayor’s Caucus. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy announced the province is providing $3.5 million to help communities deal with the crisis. Local governments can apply for up to $50,000 in community wellness and harm reduction grants for projects such as community dialogues, needle distribution and recovery programs. Applications are available at communityactioninitiative.ca/grants-training. They will be accepted until Nov. 1.

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