Regional Rundown: The importance of the UBCM convention

What is the balance between professional development and wasting tax dollars?

Should elected officials for local government go to conferences? What is the balance between professional development and wasting tax dollars?

There is no question that local governments operate with a great deal of transparency and, with most communities paying their mayors and councillors a low wage and with there being no pension plan or other benefits/perks that are enjoyed by politicians from other levels of government, usually local governments are not attacked for frivolous spending on their elected officials… except occasionally around conferences.

In 2011 at the Federal Municipalities Conference held that year in Halifax, a councillor for the City of Vancouver got in hot water for tweeting about the lobster dinner she was eating and all the “swag” she got (in her defense, lobster is probably cheaper then steak in Halifax and the swag was a cheap umbrella, some pens, and a bit of other promotional junk). Several years later, there was criticism regarding politicians from the Metro Vancouver area staying in hotels in downtown Vancouver during a conference.

From my opinion, perspective and experience, there is a balance between meaningful and important conferences and travel, and those that are lacking in value for the taxpayer. There are hundreds of different little conferences or sessions on everything from economic development, to building sustainable communities, to who knows what else. For one politician, or an entire council, to attend all of these would, in my mind, be too much.

There is one very important conference once a year that I think every local government elected official should attend (if they are able) and that is the annual convention for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM).

The UBCM convention generally moves between Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria. In addition to a great deal of workshops and clinics and learning opportunities, the convention features discussion and debate on resolutions or position statements, which the executive for UBCM spend the rest of the year trying to work on and stays on file to provide direction in the future.

During the UBCM convention, there is usually the opportunity to meet with provincial cabinet ministers and bring up relevant local topics. The meetings with cabinet ministers are only 15 minutes long and sometimes accomplish nothing, but other times they can be very effective in highlighting an issue or a concern and getting some provincial attention/focus.

Most of the local government politicians from the Columbia Valley will be heading down to Vancouver next week for this year’s UBCM conference.

We are looking forward to representing our communities, learning from best practices across the province, and helping to keep UBCM relevant and useful to local governments in B.C. A few of us are even putting our names forward to be part of the executive of UBCM and do more work with the organization: Director Booth is running for the position of second Vice President, and I am running as a Director at Large.

Gerry Taft is mayor of the District of Invermere and a Regional District of East Kootenay director for the Columbia Valley. He can be reached at

Just Posted

The end of an Echo

Invermere Valley Echo shuts down operations in Columbia Valley

Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers

Wildfires continue to engulf regions of B.C.’s forests and communities.

VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

DTSS Grad March 2017

DTSS Grad March 2017

59 cats seized in Chase

59 neglected and injured cats were seized from a property in Chase

Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell dead at age 52

The singer/songwriter passed away early Thursday morning in Detroit

Paying tribute to a primeval passage

Uninterrupted celebrates the Adams River sockeye run in an extraordinary way.

UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds

In the past, the music festival located in Pemberton drew large crowds last year of 180,000 fans

Medical wait times cost B.C. patients $2,300 each

New Fraser Institute report places B.C. at second worst in costs associated with long wait times

UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs coming from near the arena’s bars at about 10:35 p.m.

One in three Canadian high school students have rode with drinking drivers, study reveals

Nearly one in five rode with a driver who’d been smoking pot

Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records

A lower court judge ruled to destroy the stories after 15 years unless consent is given to preserve

Most Read