Water at the UBCM Convention 2013

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The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) held their 2013 Convention September 16-20 in Vancouver.

It is said on the Resolutions and Policy Papers web page of the Convention that “Consideration of resolutions and policy papers comprises the main business of the annual UBCM Convention” and indeed 156 resolutions made it into the Resolutions Book 2013.

Of those 156 resolutions, twelve dealt directly with water issues...

  • B25 DRINKING WATER APPROVAL PROCESS   (Harrison Hot Springs)
  • B28 FISH HABITAT PROTECTION   (Strathcona RD)
  • B29 STREAMKEEPERS – WORKS IN STREAMS   (Nanaimo RD)
  • B32 ENFORCEMENT OF SOURCE WATER PROTECTION   (Lake Country)
  • B37 CONTAMINATED SOIL FACILITY – THREAT TO DRINKING WATER WATERSHED   (Cowichan Valley RD)
  • B64 EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLANS FOR DAMS IN BC   (Peace River RD)
  • B69 UNDERGROUND AQUIFER MAPPING FOR PROPOSED MINING PROJECTS   (Cumberland)
  • B70 RIPARIAN AREA REGULATIONS  (Squamish-Lillooet RD)
  • B71 COORDINATED ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS   (Delta)
  • B76 INVASIVE ZEBRA & QUAGGA MUSSELS   (Okanagan-Similkameen RD)
  • B105 WATERSHED PROTECTION  (Port Alberni)
  • B119 WATER QUALITY TESTING  (Kelowna)

All of these resolutions were endorsed, most without debate, in the first, second or final resolution session.

Will these resolutions lead to action?

In notes on these resolutions the Resolution Committee frequently noted past resolutions that raised the same issues.  Resolution B37, for example, spoke of ground water protection and the resolution committee noted that the UBCM had endorsed other resolutions seeking protection of ground water in 1989, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2004.

On resolution B29, the Resolution Committee noted that UBCM members have been requesting resources and expertise from provincial and federal governments for protection and restoration of salmon habitat since 1998.

Notes on resolution B76 referred to previous endorsed resolutions asking for essentially the same actions from the province and federal government in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011.

These resolutions are in no way binding, a fact made abundantly clear by the lack of action on these issues by senior levels of government.  This despite the fact that local government is the government closest to the people and so arguably the most representative of the will of British Columbians.

There are signs that this time the province is listening!

While resolutions and policy papers comprise the main business of the Convention, it is also true that much of the value of these conventions is achieved through meetings between agenda items.  It was from one such meeting that Cowichan Valley Regional District councillor Bruce Fraser reported that Ministry of Environment staff "spoke to the upcoming revisions to the provincial Water Act.  A good deal of the discussion was about the initiative to regulate large scale uses of ground water, particularly in the light of the massive withdrawal of ground water by Nestle in the Fraser Valley".  Ministry staff promised "a greater role for local communities in watershed management” in draft legislation to be released this fall.

What is different this time?  Why might the province act now when so often in the past issues that found their way into UBCM resolutions failed to result in action at the provincial level?

What is different this time is you, precious WaterWealth supporter.  You, and people like you around the province, learning about the issues and raising your voices through declarations and petitions, on websites, blogs, social media and in the news.

WaterWealth ran a loud and strong campaign in the lead up to the last provincial election.  It wasn't long before candidates took note and by the time we hosted an all candidates debate on April 30 our supporters had provided us enough credibility that every candidate, save one, from both the Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Hope ridings made time to attend.

budget_committee_200.jpegSince the election our campaign has been lower profile, but we have been just as busy; broadening the conversations and fielding media interviews on topics such as the Nestle Waters plant in Hope; communicating and meeting with elected representatives and staff at local, regional, provincial and federal levels; meeting and working with ally organizations and water experts; and speaking for water at the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. A lot of that "policy wonk" stuff that's not as fun as showing up around town in blue water suits, but needs to be done to get the results we need to see!

Without the support of people who care we would just be treading water though.  It is the fact that people care and take the time to like and share our Facebook posts, or to retweet our tweets, or to comment on news stories, or to donate to help us keep the office running, that gets us in the door with decision makers.  They know that we represent you, and that you -- the grassroots of BC -- when you start looking like a movement, have a unique power that can't be ignored.

So, a heart-felt "thank you!" to all of our supporters and allies.  Together we've had some amazing success in the months since WaterWealth launched and we're feeling great about where we're going!

 

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