Local governments are often affected by actions of the provincial government and federal governments that they have no control over. And often they want the senior governments to do something that would make the lives of local governments easier.
Two examples are the opposition in some rural areas to the recent real estate speculation tax, and the question of who should get the benefit of taxes from cannabis businesses.
Locally, every year municipal and regional governments propose resolutions to the annual conference of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG).
The resolutions are voted on, and those that survive a vote are ranked, with the top five named as priorities.
Resolutions from the AKBLG and similar groups from around the province are sent up to the next level: the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference in the fall. That conference chooses a few resolutions from all over the province that it will lobby senior governments for.
Looking at these resolutions is a useful glimpse into what local governments consider important in realms they have no direct control over.
The five priority items chosen by the AKBLG at its annual meeting last month, and the communities that proposed them, were:
1. Share the cannabis tax (Nelson)
The provincial government should provide 50 percent of the provincial share of the cannabis tax sharing formula to local governments, because legalization of recreational cannabis will result in new costs to local governments for enforcement, licensing requirements, inspections, education and awareness.
2. Restrict the speculation tax (Invermere)
The provincial government will be asked not expand its speculation tax to other areas of the province without meaningful consultation and the opportunity for local governments to choose to opt in or out of the program, and the province should consider refining the speculator tax so that it does not penalize Canadians with a recreational property, no matter what province they reside in or file income taxes in.
3. Develop a rural needs policy (Nelson)
The government should adopt an act or policy that places a statutory duty on public authorities to consider rural needs in the development of policy and legislation, because provincial policy development tends to be focused on research obtained from the larger urban areas and does not consider the impact to the province’s rural communities when adopting legislative changes and policy.
4. Improve court access (Grand Forks)
The province should increase access to the courts in rural BC by providing a bi-monthly circuit court judge so that routine court matters may be dealt with in a more expedient manner, because rural communities typically make do with a part-time circuit judge once a month, while hundreds of millions of dollars has been allocated to improving court access in urban centers.
5. Provide additional Crown Counsel lawyers (Grand Forks)
The province should increase the number of Crown Counsel lawyers to adequate levels to keep better pace with the growing criminal caseload, because property crime rates have increased throughout the province, and the more borderline criminal cases are not going to trial because crown counsel resources are stretched too thin.
Nelson brought two additional resolutions to the AKBLG conference:
Tax fossil fuel companies?
The provincial government should tax fossil fuel companies and the taxation collected should be used to support B.C. communities in funding infrastructure costs resulting from the effects of climate change. This resolution failed at the initial vote by ending in a tie.
This initiative was championed by Nelson councillor Valerie Warmington and is a variation on another resolution that will be brought to the UBCM in the fall by other local governments in which municipalities are asked to write to fossil fuel companies asking them to contribute to the cost of climate change mitigation.
“Instead of asking them to write a letter,” Warmington told the Star, “this one was asking government to impose a tax. Many people agreed with it, but I think people just don’t like the idea of another tax.”
Restrict cannabis production on prime agricultural land?
Nelson also proposed that the province should find ways minimize the impact of cannabis production on prime agricultural lands. This could include leasing of Crown lands that would accommodate cannabis production, as there is increasing cannabis production on prime agricultural land would have a negative impact on food security. This resolution passed but was not prioritized.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay also brought two resolutions to the AKBLG conference.
• It asked for compensation from hydro power companies for loss, damage, injury or expense due to outages or voltage variations, because there has been an increase in power surges and voltage variations that have caused damage to expensive electrical components such as heat pumps in spite of the installation of surge protectors. This resolution passed but was not prioritized.
• The RDCK also asked that the provincial government and each local government association (such as the AKBLG) make a coordinated effort to synchronize the local government association spring conventions and the legislative schedule to allow MLA’s to attend. This resolution passed but was not prioritized.