Invermere mayor takes regional leadership role

District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft was acclaimed as the AKBLG vice-president for a two-year term

District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft was acclaimed as the AKBLG vice-president for a two-year term at the annual general meeting (AGM) in Nakusp between April 22nd and 24th.

Taft served as the interim vice-president of the AKBLG for nearly six months.

“To some degree, I think that the president or the vice-president role is not usually a contest,” said Taft with a chuckle. “There’s not usually a lot of people who want to do it because it’s extra work.”

However, he believes the expectation to move up on the executive board is a cause worth supporting. Cohesion, solidarity and collaboration are the driving forces for success, he said.

“I think it’s an interesting process because we were prioritizing the resolutions received by the membership and generally the conference is a good chance to network with other mayors and councillors from the East and West Kootenays,” said Taft, noting it was hard to pinpoint the highlights.

“I would say, for myself and the people of Invermere, seeing the facilities in Nakusp and the hall that they have were actually the highlight because it gives us some new ideas to bounce around with the new multi-use centre, which we’re planning to build.”

He used the opportunity to explore the Nakusp facilities to weigh up the pros and cons of a successful building so that the Invermere approach could harness the best resources.

“It was nice to get a visual picture of how high the ceilings were and how many people could fit in the building,” he said. “It was fairly useful for us.”

The AKBLG is the local government association that represents the municipalities and electoral areas of the south-eastern portion of B.C. The area includes the Regional Districts of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), Central Kootenay (RDCK), East Kootenay (RDEK), the Town of Golden and the Village of Valemount.

Working together is a priority for the AKBLG. Taft focused on this approach, along with the AKBLG executive board, by urging dignitaries to collect information from the surrounding municipalities, build up a network and discuss solutions in unity.

“We had (roughly) 12 resolutions that were voted on,” said Taft. “It was a smaller number than some years, and I think the quality was better than in some other years.”

Radium Hot Springs mayor Clara Reindhart, Village of Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras and RDEK directors Wendy Booth (Area F) and Gerry Wilkie (Area G) also made the trek to attend the AGM.

This year’s theme was encouraging municipalities to change, challenge and collaborate with the entire Kootenay region.

“This year at AKBLG, the membership debated a number of resolutions, many of which were endorsed,” Booth replied by email following the AGM. “For the first time, the membership chose to prioritize which were most important. The top resolution was for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) to lobby the provincial government for an increased level of support for mental health. This is in line with UBCM’s current mandate. This is something that impacts every community and needs more attention, so I was pleased to see that level of support.”

Wilkie felt the most valuable aspect of attending the AKBLG AGM was the lively discussion about governance.

“The conference and discussion was well-managed and enjoyable. I appreciated the two legal clinics that AKBLG provided for us. Both very topical regarding recent developments in B.C.,” Wilkie replied by email. “The first dealt with the responsibility of local government elected officials to avoid conflict of interest and the second, a fascinating discussion of case law and the duty of local governments to consult with First Nations.”

Wilkie added the journey to the AKBLG AGM was a blessing in disguise.

“Nakusp is a charming town situated on the edge of the Lower Arrow Lake,” said Wilkie. “While we were there, the locals were commenting on the lowest reservoir level in April in many years — the water level fluctuates nearly 50 feet — and this reminded me of how fortunate we are to live along the only section of the Columbia River in North America still in its

natural state.”

Next years convention is planned for Kimberley and Taft is eager to see the AGM return to the East Kootenay.