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B.C. local governments face ‘unprecedented issues’, ‘extreme toxicity in public life’

UBCM president Laurey-Anne Roodenburg says municipalities dealing with massive, complex challenges
Union of British Columbia Municipalities president Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg of Quesnel (right) in a question-and-answer session with Coun. Jen Ford of Whistler says municipalities face a set of “massive, complex and in so many cases unprecedented” issues that require systemic changes. (Photo courtesy of Union of British Columbia Municipalities)

Extreme climate change. The housing squeeze. Health care shortages. The collapse of the forest sector.

The president of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities said B.C. communities face a set of “massive, complex and in so many cases unprecedented” issues that require systemic change.

And all of these issues are being dealt with, she said, against a backdrop of “extreme toxicity” in public life.

“It has been a period of unusual stress for everyone, who served in local government, both elected officials and staff,” Laurey-Anne Roodenburg said this morning during the 2022 UBCM convention in Whistler. “Local governments have been steadfast as we have responded to all of these issues and have continued to do our day-to-day business.”

“The crisis in housing has been with us for a decade and it continues to get worse,” the Quesnel councillor said. “Housing policy to increase the right supply of homes continues to be the focus of discussions with the province.”

She pointed to the detrimental effects of short-term rentals on the housing market.

“The growth of this industry has come at the expense of long-term housing supply. We need provincial regulation for this industry and right now we are waiting for the province to act on the policy options that we have proposed.”

Roodenburg said the UBCM also continues to work with the province on development approval process, official community plans and zoning. She pushed back against complaints that a slow municipal government pace of development approvals is the main source of the housing crisis.

“Development approval is one piece of a big puzzle,” she said.

RELATED: B.C. government needs to be listening to municipal delegates at UBCM convention, says Olsen

Roodenburg also prepared delegates for the prospect of the province taking a more interventionist role in housing.

David Eby, the minister responsible for housing and the NDP frontrunner to replace Premier John Horgan, said earlier this year that the province is looking at legislation that could override municipal rejections of affordable housing projects. A ban on single-family housing could also be offing.

“We need to take the government at its word and anticipate that legislation will be coming this fall,” she said, adding the final form of the legislation remains unknown.

Meanwhile, Roodenburg praised recent government initiatives to help municipalities deal with extreme climate change.

“But we all know that infrastructure costs for (climate change) adaption are jaw-dropping and we have to get on it,” she said, renewing calls for a new financial relationship with the province.

“The property tax was not designed to respond to issues on the scale of climate change.”

Roodenburg spoke during the convention’s opening session as part of a question-and-answer session with Coun. Jen Ford of Whistler. The UBMC represents 189 local governments and the 2022 convention — which wraps up Friday — has attracted 1,500 delegates from across the province.

She lamented declining standards of behaviour in public life. Public affairs have entered what she called a “period of extreme toxicity in public life” fuelled in part by social media spreading misinformation and elected officials and staff facing coordinated attacks.

More and more citizens are resorting to harassment and intimidation, she said, calling on delegates to do their part by upholding the necessary standards of civility for society to function.

“It’s not something that we can ignore,” she said. “It’s important work and we all need to be part of it.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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