UBCM 2015 overview Print Article Font Size
Every year, Local Governments (Town Councils and Regional Districts) are invited to attend the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Conference, held in various locations across the province.

Founded in 1905, the UBCM provides a “united front” for local governments to meet with provincial ministers and senior staff regarding their most pressing issues. It is also the largest meeting of local government officials and is the primary policy setting forum for municipalities and regional districts.

This year, as with every other, Town Council also took its own selected issues to the Province to garner support and provide advocacy for continuing initiatives, making changes or providing assistance within our community. Following is a brief outline of some of the most important and noteworthy outcomes of the meetings.

Mayor Ron Oszust, Electoral Area A Director Karen Cathcart, Town of Golden CAO Jon Wilsgard and Lynda Shykora, Deputy Manager, Corporate Administration for the CSRD met with B.C. Premier Christy Clark to ask that the Province transfer the land the BCVC sits on to the Golden and Area Community Economic Development Society.

Mayor Ron Oszust explains that the transfer will provide long-term flexibility to the transferability and occupancy of the BCVC building going into the future. ­

“We had great success with the Premier saying she was keen to start the process. It’s a big outcome and a real coup for us because it is a really rare thing that the provincial government will transfer land.”

Opened in 2005, and despite its overall success, CAO Jon Wilsgard explains that even though tourism does continue to grow in the province, it is recognized provincially and locally by our stakeholders and Tourism Golden that the current BCVC building and location for visitor services in Golden no longer meets the needs of the technologically savvy traveler or the community.

“The behavioural nature of visitors planning their trips has changed and so must the visitor services response by our urban and rural destinations.” 

Golden pedestrian path
Town Council and Staff met with Minister Stone to discuss a number of projects, including the Golden Path Extension access and future linkage.

In 2010, as a response to Council’s request at UBCM, the Province spent over $1.3million on an upgraded paved pathway paralleling the Trans Canada Highway up the “Golden Hill.” A continuing partnership with MOTI resulted in the overpass extension. A final short link is required to connect Golden’s “strip” to our downtown and the equal number of retailers, restaurants, and local attractions that depend so heavily upon tourism as an economic driver in our area.

“We received confirmation that the final link of the pedestrian path is now underway,” says Wilsgard. “It will go from the junction of Hwy. 95 and Hwy. 1 up to a point across from Boston pizza.”

Council also provided an acknowledgement of thanks to the Minister for projects like the highway twinning and introduced the concept of the old weigh scale sight eventually having a visitor services presence.

Highway 95 Bridge Replacement
The need for a replacement crossing over the Kicking Horse River is driven by the age and condition of the existing bridge. The height of the existing bridge makes it vulnerable to ice jams threatening Golden with flooding. In addition, if the bridge were damaged and closed there is no alternate vehicular route across the Kicking Horse River.

“We are actively reinforcing the idea of a suspension superstructure for the Hwy. 95 Bridge so it doesn’t have such an impact on the community and MOTI has been very supportive and understanding of that,” says Mayor Oszust.
“They are very familiar with the issue and we will continue ongoing lobbying for the timely replacement of the highway crossing.”

Provincial Chain-Up Initiative
Recently, the BC Roadbuilders Association and the BC Trucking Association outlined a number of strategic initiatives to reduce transport truck related motor vehicle incidents during the winter. Most importantly, the report indicated that the use of tire chains was “one of the single largest preventative initiatives” in this effort.

The report recommended an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act to Specify Minimum Chain Requirements – currently there are no specific regulations regarding physical chain requirements - and to amend the Offense Act to increase the fine to $196 with 3 points against the driver.

Council requested that the Minister implement the recommendations.

“The Ministry indicated that they are supporting the work of BC Road Builders and Truckers for their provincial chain up initiative,” says Mayor Oszust.

Meeting with hon. Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development and Assistant Deputy Minister Meeting Briefing Note Manjit Sidhu, ADM, Ministry of Health


One of the main issues Council debated at this meeting was the responsibility of Interior Health to redesign the helipad at the Golden Hospital in order to conform to federal regulations and meaningfully communicate the upgrade requirements to the community so that the Town can properly plan for costs associated with the upgrade.

Interior Health currently operates the heliport, which only supports daytime landings of non-instrument, multiple engine helicopters of less than 13 metres in length. The only aircraft that meets that requirement regionally is the BK117 operated By STARS Air Ambulance out of Calgary. 

“Council insisted to the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health to get Interior Health on it or at least state where the heliport fits in with their priorities,” says Mayor Oszust.

At the moment all aircraft transporting patients to and from the Golden Hospital (with the exception of the BK 117) are required to land at the Golden Airport and then liaison with ground transport. This can lead to a host of problems, including wait times related to the airport’s location on the other side of the train tracks.

“The limitations on the current heliport at the Golden and District Hospital should be a concern for our community.  As STARS air ambulance transitions away from the BK117 we will eventually lose the only aircraft currently able to land at the facility,” says Mayor Oszust.

Social programs
Council lobbied Minister Cadieux for changes to wages and underfunded social programs which are becoming acutely felt, particularly by the Golden Family Centre Society (GFCS).  This local and key social services provider in Golden has experienced continuous deficit budgets over the past five years.
“Council advocated on behalf of the Social Services sector saying that the Ministry’s continued underfunding of its own contracts for counselling and outreach is unacceptable,” Mayor Oszust notes.

Access to care
“We are seeing the devolution of things like lab services (as an example) in small communities which is, in the best case an inconvenience, but the consequences are far more dire in the worst case,” says Mayor Oszust.

As many have to travel as far as Kelowna and Cranbrook to receive treatments for various illnesses, he adds, “Not only is it inconvenient for people, but in a number of instances, they are not going to their appointments which can be detrimental to their health.”

Council is advocating on behalf of the local Access to Care Committee to ensure appropriate and even expanded services in the community.

Of the many services that the Town provides, one of the most critical is the management and maintenance of the dike system.

“We are in the business of roads, sewer and water, and we choose to be in the business of things like recreation, leisure, cultural services and fire protection, but we are forced to be the diking authority,” says Mayor Oszust. “For the past five years, Council has advocated that it would like to see that authority rescinded.”

The amount of money spent on dyke maintenances and management is administratively and financially become higher and higher.

Ultimately, the resolution that the Province be re-established as the diking authority in all local governments was passed at the UBCM meeting.

“This speaks to a broader issue that we are not alone, but stand with other communities along rivers in that we share the same challenges and financial burden,” says Mayor Oszust.

The Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding program is intended to assist small, tourism-based municipalities to support and increase visitation. RMI funding allows these communities to dedicate resources to improving tourism-based infrastructure and amenities to attract more visitors and encourage longer stays.

“We, as one of 14 municipalities that receive this funding, all got together to discuss the value of the program and made a presentation to Minister Bond and her staff,” says Mayor Oszust.

Council voiced its appreciation of the program in its current state, which will run until 2017.

Beyond that, Wilsgard says the Minister indicated that there will be a program of some shape.

“But they would not comment to the scope or nature of it.”

To that end, a sub-committee was created that includes three mayors and three CAOs from communities receiving the funding - including Golden’s own CAO Jon Wilsgard

“Jon’s history, knowledge and experience with that file will be important to all the communities involved,” says Mayor Oszust. “There was also a discussion in regards to having the group of 14 communities work together to advocate other resort municipality issues – like the Temporary Foreign Workers Program for example, a valuable program to a lot of businesses in our community.”

UBCM gives Council the chance to network with other like-minded Councillors, communities and provincial levels of government about complex issues. Meetings with the Premier are positive because of the significant political and executive presence in the room.

For new councillors, UBCM provides the opportunity to get detailed information on a variety of subjects and to network with new and seasoned local government representatives. Attending UBCM gives Council the opportunity to attend a myriad of meetings around a variety of subject matter.