Barring some unprecedented change in the regular order of things, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait will soon be named as the president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
That organization is slated to hold its annual convention between Sept. 23 to 27, and as the current first vice-president of the UBCM, Tait is the presumptive president for the next year.
“My involvement with the UBCM has put me in a much better position to ensure that our district is in alignment with other municipalities and to advocate for those issues that directly impact our community,” Tait said.
“Our community is not the only one facing pressures of growth, for example, and the UBCM allows us to address those common challenges to find solutions.”
That’s an assessment echoed by the UBCM’s current president Arjun Singh.
“UBCM’s annual convention provides a platform for communities across B.C. to identify issues and seek the support of their peers. One of the key resolutions in this year’s agenda highlights the need for improved consultation by the province on land use issues in B.C. This resolution has been driven largely by input from small and rural communities and will help focus provincial attention on this issue,” Singh said.
A major UBCM accomplishment cited by Tait is municipal access to the federal gas tax.
The tax delivers more than $2 billion annually to more than 3,600 communities across the country.
“The UBCM was a big advocate for the recent increases in that fund and that, in turn, gives us some security of funding for infrastructure projects in our own community,” Tait said.
Notwithstanding the accomplishments of the organization, some have questioned the involvement of municipalities in what are generally considered to be global issues, and in 2016 the Canadian Taxpayers Federation called it “a big waste of money.”
Tait disagrees and points out that many so-called global issues like climate change, environmental challenges and even the opioid crisis have direct impacts on our community.
“If we sit in our own silos and pretend that everything is perfect, how will we ever make things better?” Tait asked.
“Whether its the opioid crisis, broadband internet, housing affordability or any of a number of other issues, all municipalities are having to deal with the impact of these challenges and the UBCM is a good place to gain information and perspective.”
Tait said the relationships with federal and provincial representatives that she’s forged in her tenure at the UBCM have made it possible to weigh in on issues like abandoned vessels, dumping of waste in the harbour, or salmon quotas.
“Right now, we’re facing a new challenge as the RCMP is unionized, a move that will probably result in increased costs and challenges to municipalities like Sooke,” Tait said.
“It’s something that we’re likely to discuss at the UBCM to get a consistent approach developed to deal with the situation.”