BC’s Conservative leader provides detailed response to Urban Mayors concerns
Fort St. John: This morning BC’s Conservative leader Trevor Bolin provided The BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus with a detailed four-page response* to four top issues of concern to them.
Issues raised by the mayors from communities across the province included:
- Mental Health, Substance Use and Treatment
- Affordable Housing
- Public Transit, and
- A New Fiscal Relationship
In his response, Bolin reminded the 13 mayors that, “I have been a City Councilor in Fort St John for over 12 years, and thoroughly enjoy the challenges being involved with local government brings. However, I also fully understand some of the extremely difficult challenges local governments have with their provincial and federal counterparts.”
He continued by saying it was one of the very reasons why he became involved at the provincial level.
“I am a strong believer in locally made, provincially supported plans. For far too long the provincial government has downloaded its responsibilities onto Local Government, and in turn, when facing a camera, championed as funders for the ongoing issues, or told the public what they should be doing without the proper consultation.”, said Bolin.
Bolin indicated he would commit to working with all local governments, and ensuring their concerns were heard, met and that a partnership approach was created for the benefit of all.
“Under this renewed relationship between not only the communities of the BC Urban Mayor’s Caucus, but for all local governments in BC, I commit”, Bolin concluded.
Trevor Bolin, leader
* Please see below for the full response to the Urban Mayors Caucus
Dear B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus:
Thank you for including BC’s Conservatives in your important and timely release regarding our platform and positions on your concerns.
As you may know, I have been the Conservative leader for a year and a half now. Since then, we have taken the time needed to engage and communicate with British Columbians from every region of the Province to build our Platform which was voted on in February in Abbotsford.
I have been a City Councilor in Fort St John for over 12 years, and thoroughly enjoy the challenges being involved with local government brings. However, I also fully understand some of the extremely difficult challenges are with the provincial and federal governments, which is why I decided to get involved provincially.
BC’s Conservatives understand the importance of a strong relationship with local government, and that Local Governments need to be viewed as Partners with the Provincial Government; not treated as work-horses, tax collectors and only given one annual meeting to address concerns through the UBCM. We, and I, fully commit to working with the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus, as well as all the local governments in which we serve and represent. Below, you will find our responses to your four concerns as brought forward in your 2020 Blueprint for British Columbia’s Urban Future.
- Mental Health, Substance Use and Treatment:
I am a strong believer in locally made, provincially supported plans. For far too long the provincial government has downloaded its responsibilities onto Local Government, and in turn, when facing a camera, championed as funders for the ongoing issues, or told the public what they should be doing without the proper consultation.
British Columbia’s Mental Health, Substance use and Treatment (or lack thereof), is out of control and I have yet to see a plan that could or would work.
I had the fortunate (or some might say, unfortunate) life learning experience of dealing with this issue firsthand, as my father was tragically an addict for 20 years. I would say it was fortunate because it showed me how the Health Authority and Provincial Governments failed so terribly for so many years. It also provided a firsthand look at what he really needed and was asking for.
We have a very definite lack of treatment options and facilities in this province to help those that so desperately need support in a regional or provincial system that cannot hear them.
We need to ensure a provincial commitment for partnering and empowering local governments, local health and mental health with approaches including support services, local input and provincial funding for facilities dedicated to the elimination of this crisis. Only then by taking this hands-on approach and dealing with it will we find the future that British Columbians are looking for and deserve.
I commit to ensuring this expanded scope of these issues is worked on from the day after the election and throughout the four years.
2. Affordable Housing:
As I mentioned in the beginning of this response, our platform was created and voted on in Abbottsford in February of this year. During that session, affordable housing was, and still is, a hot topic provincially.
Our platform is based on a partnership with local governments and includes the use of existing crown land (provincially owned), municipally owned, or regionally owned land that is currently not being used for its primary purposes. This would allow access to lands that would be very costly, in a format that allows development at a lesser cost based on community needs.
We would engage BC Housing and local governments as partners at the table for the best solutions driven by individual communities’ needs. We would work with Canada Mortgage and Housing as well as independent mortgage insurance companies to ensure programs were made for British Columbians. We would also work with local government to ensure red tape is removed under existing programs for the enhancement of expanded development programs allowing the market to avoid the high peaks.
I have owned a Real Estate Company for many years and practiced in real estate for over two decades. When I see one of British Columbia’s top GDP incomes include real estate in the top two like it did for years under the BC Liberals, I have grave concerns for not only the existing generation of home buyers, but future buyers as well. I also am a big believer that we need to ensure some sort of separation in BC housing’s existing and new stock between affordability, seniors care facilities and facilities for folks with disabilities.
The Affordable Housing Solutions in urban Planning report offers the advice “Young people are affected worst by the lack of affordability and many leave costly urban area for suburbs or even towns. The most common approach of buying smaller, tiny apartments and studios is not a healthy nor sustainable approach.” The report outlines 21 recommendations including some of that I have mentioned above; Home ownership subsidies, ending property transfer tax (one of our platforms), home ownership subsidies, working with the Federal Government to allow a GST exemption for “affordable homes”.
I will commit to working with local governments ensuring these concerns are heard, met and a partnership approach can be created for the benefit of all.
3. Public Transit:
For almost two decades, we in Fort St John have been dealing with issues created by a provincial transit system that does not get involved with the needs of the communities. Communities bear exceptionally large costs for this service, and we are now seeing other provinces starting to shift away from this old model.
I passionately believe that transit, and transit needs, will be playing an extremely large role in BC in the coming years. We need to ensure BC’s transit operations (including rail, roads, and water) are funded adequately, are meeting communities’ needs, and can be relied upon as a safe mode of transportation for work, school, shopping, and general travel.
BC’s Conservatives will commit to working with local governments to hear their concerns and as partners, maintain and enhance a system that is beneficial. Over ten years ago in California, I was astounded by how they had already converted from diesel-operated equipment to natural gas and electric. We as a community championed the provincial government of the day to start switching the fleet to a clean Made-In-BC natural resource which would reduce emissions, provide jobs, and enhance our communities. It was unfortunate that this opportunity fell on deaf ears, just as it does now.
We would commit to ensuring that the fleet would be updated as the needed renewals come due.
4. A New Fiscal Relationship:
In the opening remarks, I commented on the annual meeting in which local governments can address their concerns to the provincial government. As a city councillor I have attended these events, and as recently as the week before this election was called, I was a part of the one item meetings with government ministers.
Please do not get me wrong, I am grateful we as community leaders have an opportunity to engage and bring forward items of concern, but it is the annual part I have concerns with. The provincial government needs to acknowledge and ensure communities and local governments are treated as partners in the process of building B.C.
We need to ensure open dialogue, local planning, and enhanced discussions are not only taking place, but on a regular basis. I understand the Ministers and Premier are busy, but I feel if they understood (or remember) the pressures of local politics, I passionately feel a lot of the issues that cause division in municipalities, Regional Districts and First Nations communities could be easier addressed and resolved.
As we have witnessed, provincial and federal deficits have swelled beyond any of our imaginations due to COVID-19, and are continuing to do so. I am concerned a lot more responsibility is going to be put on local governments as the provincial government looks for ways to climb out of this massive debt load.
Only through some tough fiscally rewarding decisions will the
province be able to ensure this does not occur. It is time for the provincial government to look back upon how municipalities are operated, and remember that the local politicians -- who are the face of the communities -- are also expected to keep local costs under control, ensure no deficits for the budgeted year and provide an environment where businesses can continue to operate, and citizens can continue to live quality lives without choosing between paying taxes or utilities or rents.
Under this renewed relationship between not only the communities of the BC Urban Mayor’s Caucus, but for all local governments in BC, I commit.
In closing, I thank you for taking the time to review our commitments and pledge to working with regarding your issues in the letter, and offer my personal email firstname.lastname@example.org for your use in the future to discuss this further, or any other issues you may have after the election is done and the new MLA’s are sworn in.
I believe these discussions should be happening far more frequently than they do presently, as it appears only an election or a UBCM will bring the attention that is needed to Local Governments’ concerns and questions.
Leader of BC’s Conservatives