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Posted: October 8, 2017

It was a busy UBCM for Kimberley

UBCM Report

By Mayor Don McCormick

City of Kimberley

The following is a summary of the meetings held last week at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention, attended by Councillor Sandra Roberts, CAO Scott Sommerville and myself. Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok attended the minister meetings.

Resort Municipality Initiative meeting – 14 resort municipalities (RMs) only. It has been a year since we last met in person, and with the change in government, the status of the RMI renewal is not clear. So the goal of this meeting was to recap our position and make sure the message to the ministry was consistent and clear:

The program is working, as the RMs as a group is leading tourism growth in the province; it takes 14 days to return the $10.5M cost of the program to the province.

The room tax pays for marketing that gives a promise of a great experience, but it is the RMI and the capital infrastructure that it funds that fulfills the promise. Unless the experience meets the expectation of the promise, visitors will not return.

Tourism IS the economy in the 14 RMs; we need tools to compete nationally and internationally.

The 14 RMs are at different stages of development, and need flexibility on how each spends the money.

We need to get away from the RMI grant which is taxpayer money and go back to an additional room tax which is paid for by the visitors who use the amenities.

We need long-term certainty (five-year term) so that we can plan and execute on larger projects.

Resort Municipality meeting with ministry staff. Staff responsible for the RMI program remain in place. There is a new ADM who also attended this meeting. Following the consultant’s study the RMs did last year, the ministry conducted their own study. The ministry will not share the results of this study at this time. This is not clearly understood, and a primary driver behind our recommendation to form a working committee with staff to take a proposal for renewal forward to Treasury Board.

Resort Municipality meeting with the minister. As with all of the new ministers, Minister Beare is too new to share much more than enthusiasm for the tourism contribution of the 14 RMs. The minister and her staff state that they understand and are supportive of our position. We agreed to strike a working committee with ministry staff to draft terms that evolve the program forward.

Ministry of Environment. The primary purpose of this meeting was to educate Minister Heyman on the various issues and opportunities we have with our brownfields. I sense that the minister was surprised by the breadth of environmental issues in the interior – stating that every municipality has at least one environmental issue. He left the discussion to his Deputy Minister, Mark Zacharias. I have had dialogue with Mark on our issues previously. He and his key staff that we are working with are very supportive of what we are trying to do. The peer review process appears to be the place that things are dragging. (An independent engineer reviews plans submitted by our engineers and when satisfied approves the plan which is submitted to the ministry.) It is critical that we get the applications for townsite and the bench in to the ministry before October 31 as a new set of environmental regulations take effect. The minister will be in Kimberley the middle of October.

Forestry, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The subject is urban deer management. Our request was three-fold: 
Approve our license for a translocation; Engage the conservation officers in removal of problem deer that return to communities, and 
tap into the fund set up to help manage this issue.

Minister Donaldson was very engaged as was his staff, including our regional manager Paul Rasmussen. They understand our issue and our position. The next step is review of Ian Adam’s final report on the translocation trial, which is due within a couple of weeks. Our meeting with the Environment folks to discuss COS participation was cancelled due to a change in UBCM scheduling. However, we can discuss the COs with the minister when he is here later this month.

Municipal Insurance Association. I met with the CEO Tom Barnes and former Board chair Teunis Westbroaek to discuss the Gerry Taft (District of Invermere Mayor) case and its implications for all elected officials. MIA is refusing to cover Mayor Taft in his defense of the defamation lawsuit. After discussion, they offered to have MIA staff come to Kimberley and conduct a seminar on MIA coverage. We need to know where the boundaries are and that MIA does in fact have our back.

Municipal Affairs. Our conference centre and SunMine negotiations with interested parties have run into Community Charter issues. They include: The definition of ‘partnership’ and what we can and cannot do outside of ‘municipal services’; 
The concept of fair market value as it pertains to the business, not the asset; and the broadly-defined ‘aide to a specific business.’

Minister Robinson and staff agreed that these are not insurmountable and our staff will be engaging the ministry to define a solution.

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Our pitch to the minister was about the solar potential in this area and the need to have BC Hydro re-open the SOP – no capital investment in the industry will occur without a customer and BC Hydro is that customer through the SOP. The minister was not very receptive, stating that BC Hydro had many other issues to be resolved.

Jobs, Trade and Technology. We made the same solar pitch to Minister Ralston who was much more receptive. We are following up with ministry staff of with a summary of the opportunity, the types of jobs we are talking about and the stats on solar industry economic impact from the USA.

Air BNB. Scott and I met with Air BNB to discuss their position on regulation of short term rentals in communities. They shared their experience, including their statistics for Kimberley. They are open to collecting tax on behalf of the province, which is likely to happen in the not too distant future. Short term rental (sometime referred to as home sharing) is another type of accommodation that enhances the choices visitors have and our capacity. We need to understand better how it fits within our current accommodation mix and embrace this new wave of accommodation.

Finance. I met with Minister James along with the mayors of Tofino, Sun Peaks and a councillor from Victoria on the evolution of taxation issues associated with short term rentals. This included: removal of the less than four room PST exemption; 
assessment classification of short term rentals; and 
impact of short term rentals on affordable long term rentals.

The minister was up to date on the issues. Lots of lobbying has been done on this issue and we are optimistic that government supports the recommendations.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The purpose of this meeting was to review data for Kimberley, and discuss what small and medium size business sees as the important issues for local government to address. Reducing the property tax gap is high on that list, but also includes ideas to reduce red tape. We also discussed business licenses, specifically the desire to eliminate annual renewals (making the license permanent).

Andrew Weaver. After our not so positive meeting with the energy minister, and following the positive meeting with the jobs minister, I decided to seek out Andrew Weaver. Doug Clovechok’s assistant was instrumental in tracking him down and letting me know where he was last Thursday. Andrew is on exactly the same page when it comes to the clean energy opportunity in the province, and the BC Hydro roadblock. I briefed him on the minister meetings and also invited him to Kimberley to discuss and view first hand our solar environment.

Mid-size Communities Forum. We were invited to present on the variety of partnerships required to pull off the SunMine.

In addition to these specific meetings, we attended several networking reception (for example Clean Energy BC), seminars on a variety of topics (marijuana, short term rentals).

In summary, it was a productive week. We moved things forward and follow-up is underway.

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