Regional conference comes bearing food for thought

opportunity for local politicians to improve governance.

There’s an opportunity for local politicians to improve governance by working together in a collaborative nature.

District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, Radium Hot Springs mayor Clara Reindhart, Village of Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras and Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F director Wendy Booth and Area G director Gerry Wilkie will be making the journey to attend the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) annual general meeting (AGM) in Nakusp between Wednesday, April 22nd and Friday, April 24th.

This year’s AGM theme is encouraging municipalities to change, challenge and collaborate with the entire Kootenay region — a goal that has become a talking point for many Columbia Valley representatives.

Taft, who is currently sitting on the executive as the interim vice president of the AKBLG, is eager to encourage his peers to make waves.

“One of the biggest things we’re trying to do this year is to prioritize the resolutions so throughout this conference every year, we usually vote on resolutions,” explained Taft. “Those go forward to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and what we’re trying to do this year is to encourage the Kootenay membership to decrease the number of resolutions and improve the quality. Then, we want to take the next step and see the top five (resolutions). Our hope is to make the resolutions more effective.”

The idea behind taking this approach to work together cohesively could be for the greater good.

“Trying to change the resolutions is definitely an attempt to change,” Taft explained. “It’s a challenge to get it right, and if we do get it right, then we’ll have collaboration too… It always turns out that whatever challenge we might have, we’re not the only ones facing it, even though we think we’re all unique — the issues are often really common.

“Even if it’s a smaller or bigger place, we all face the same challenges, it all comes down to money, infrastructure, staffing — we’re all in the same business so a lot of the challenges are the same.”

The importance of transparency and good local government motivate the many delegates who plan to attend the AKBLG.

Ultimately, said Reindhart, the AKBLG is typically viewed as a safe place to find common ground with other municipalities and come up with problem-solving strategies. It will be Reindhart’s sixth trip to the AKBLG and she is eager to return.

“It’s a good opportunity to compare notes with the other municipal leaders in the Kootenay Boundary region because we spend a fair bit of time in the Columbia Valley,” she said.

She believes the opportunity to learn and share from one another could help benefit everyone.

“I think one of the things that is always interesting is the theme that they choose, and their theme this year is Change, Challenge and Collaborate,” said Reindhart. “I think that’s going to set the tone and I think that there’s a recognition by all communities that the status quo isn’t working. Everything around us is changing and there’s a lot of communities who have been trying to go it on their own — and it’s not working.”

However, she laughed in jest about the term collaboration, noting it was going to start losing its meaning soon.

“It’s an overused word,” said Reindhart. “In fact, I went to one conference where they said, ‘the next person who says collaboration is going to buy drinks,’ but collaboration is key because there are areas where we can work together and then there are other areas where we can’t because we want to maintain our individuality. I think that’s going to be a really interesting theme and it’s already starting to exist in the Columbia Valley.”

The opportunity to collect information from other municipalities, build up a network, discuss hypothetical solutions to ongoing regional and municipal challenges are critical factors for local government authorities who are still learning how to work together for the greater good.

“I view this as a learning opportunity,” Booth replied in an email from the road. “There are several sessions that interest me, Water and Sewer infrastructure, conflict of interest and the recent Tsilhqot’in Nation decision and how that impacts the duty to consult with First Nations from a local government perspective.”

Juras agreed with the sentiment that the AKBLG is an opportunity to learn from others.

“The cutbacks at the (Canfor) mill (in Canal Flats) are in the forefront of our minds,” explained Juras. “I’m looking forward to talking to other communities that have a resource-based industry in their towns and seeing what they are doing to diversify.”

However, Juras added, Canal Flats won’t be bringing any resolutions forward at the AKBLG AGM.

“There’s always a lot to learn when you go,” said Juras. “For me, the networking is very important, so I look forward to speaking to other mayors and councillors in the area to see what their issues are and to see how they’re handling their challenges. It helps a lot to bring that (information) back to council and discuss it.”

Village of Radium Hot Springs councillor Tyler McCauley will also be attending the AKBLG AGM.

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