Forests & Climate Takeaways from UBCM 2020

The scoop from a virtual UBCM

In mid-September I, along with my local government colleagues from around the province, concluded the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference. Things looked different, as most things do these days. We were not hundreds of mayors and councillors in a room shoulder to shoulder but rather were tuning in virtually from home. 

The City of Nelson hosted a socially distanced event at the Prestige where each of us at our own tables were able to watch the information sessions, pursue through the virtual tradeshow and vote on resolutions. Some RDCK Directors joined us and a few local Mayors and councillors as well. This made it a much more lively experience than having us all only participate at home alone as we were able to comment on resolutions verbally, cheer in unison, and collectively groan when the technology glitched. 

UBCM reflects the truth in the old adages “strength in numbers” and “united we stand – divided we fall”. It is an opportunity for local governments to have a collective voice represent our needs and aspirations at the provincial level. 

One of the most important aspects of UBCM, in my opinion, are the resolutions.

UBCM Resolutions: How they work

Each year local government councils pass resolutions that are then debated at the regional level and, if approved, are passed to the UBCM executive where they choose one of three options to Endorse, Not Endorse or No Recommendation resolutions. There are also Extraordinary Resolutions which amend UBCM Bylaws or to ask the Province to amend the UBCM Act and Special Resolutions which the executive has determined highlight key areas of concern around the province.

UBCM policies ensure that resolutions not considered by the Convention will be submitted to the Executive for appropriate action, and the sponsors advised of the Executive action.

For more information about how UBCM resolutions work click HERE.

What went down with the logging and climate change action resolutions

In total there were over 200 resolutions submitted to UBCM. In our area alone the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) sponsored nine resolutions and the City of Nelson sponsored three resolutions. I personally co-authored two of the resolutions. 

Because we cannot go into detail on all the resolutions, I wanted to choose two resolutions, one of which I co-authored, to share with you plus a resolution that went to FCM. 

Cottonwood –  Private Land Logging 

In response to the proposed logging around Cottonwood Lake Regional Park, the RDCK passed resolution EB65 Private Land Logging which asked the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development to prioritize and resolve the issues surrounding logging on large parcels of private land in BC when volumes to be harvested are over 600 cubic meters, and that the province change legislation to allow regional districts to implement tree cutting bylaws. 

This resolution means that landowners could not buy up large tracts of land, log them, not be required to replant them and dispose of them. This would prevent situations like the logging around Cottonwood Regional Park from occurring in the future and it could also mean that old growth forests on private land could be protected. This does not mean that logging on private land would never occur but would help to ensure community impact is minimized, and the logging practices are more sustainable.There could also be a requirement for replanting. In our region it would be important to ensure people can continue to own woodlots and harvest sustainably but could prevent a situation like the logging around Cottonwood Lake from occurring in our region or others in the future. This resolution was included in the Endorsed Block and passed!

Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes to fund Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

After going through my first budgeting session with the City and knowing how closely we watch our spending and how careful we want to be to ensure the tax dollars we collect go as far as possible to support our community as much as possible I was floored to read the CBC article Taxing Canadians’ patience: Corporations need to pay their fair share

I teamed up with Councillor Amy Lubik from Port Moody and we drafted the resolution UBCM Resolution NR41 Closing Federal Corporate Tax Loopholes to Fund Climate-Related Adaptation and Mitigation. 

The resolution states: 

Whereas local governments are incurring substantial costs in relation to the impacts of climate change, including volatile weather patterns, droughts, wildfires, erosion and other impacts and such costs are anticipated to continue rising; And whereas 2019 reports indicate that many corporations are not paying between 24 to 29 percent of legally owed federal taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM strongly encourage the Canadian Government to implement measures to close corporate tax loopholes and collect owed corporate taxes in order that such funds be directed to local governments and Indigenous communities, in order to pay for climate change adaptation, mitigation, and resilience measures.

The burden is too great for average families. Large corporations should not be able to hide their billions in offshore bank accounts while the average Canadian is working hard, is concerned about affordability while the costs of climate change are increasing. 

That resolution was unfortunately not endorsed by the UBCM executive and it was not debated on the floor but, as per UBCM policy, resolutions not considered by the Convention will be submitted to the executive for appropriate action, and the sponsors advised of the executive action.

During the UBCM elections Amy Lubik, the co-author, was elected to the executive. I was thrilled to support her and am pleased to have another, strong, climate focused councillor on the executive who can push these issues forward. I am hopeful that the UBCM executive will make the request to the Federal Government. 

Federal Funding and Support for Natural Solutions to Climate-Related Adaptation and Mitigation.  

Originally the UBCM resolution was created for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), but after speaking with the FCM staff and executives it was clear that they would enthusiastically support a resolution asking the federal government to create a transfer based funding program to help local governments fund natural climate solutions. FCM’s did not see it appropriate in their role to lobby the federal government regarding tax collection. FCM’s role is to influence how taxation is equitably allocated to municipalities. So Councillor Lubik and I drafted the following resolution for FCM. 

The Canadian Government implement funding and programs supporting natural solutions for climate change, including but not limited to the conservation and restoration of urban forests, wetlands, coastal areas, agricultural lands, in partnership with local and regional governments, including Indigenous governments where welcome; And be it further resolved that any natural climate solution programs be transfer based, not grant-dependent, to maintain flexibility in order to meet the needs of all Canadian local governments experiencing a wide range of climate change impacts and adopting a wide range of climate solutions that are appropriate to their unique situation and population.

In support of this adopted resolution, FCM sent a letter to Minister McKenna outlining the call for action directed at the federal government contained in the resolution. In addition, as this resolution has been adopted with concurrence by the executive, it will guide future FCM policy positions.

What’s Next

Although UBCM 2020 was not the usual blur of Minister meetings, trade show booths and conversations over evening appetizers, it continued to provide a critical platform for local governments to voice their collective concerns to higher levels of government and push for changes that benefit our communities. I was proud that I was able to use my platform as an elected official to push for policies that I know my constituents care deeply about; private land logging, climate change resilience and closing corporate tax loopholes to ensure Canada is more affordable and large corporations are held accountable and pay their fair share.

The work is far from over! UBCM resolutions are a great way to signal to the provincial government what is important on a local level. The resolutions that pass demonstrate a collective concern and call to action on issues that matter to our constituents.  

Brittny Anderson
Councillor, City of Nelson
Director, Regional District of Central Kootenay

Brittny is a candidate in the current BC election. She agreed to report on UBCM before the election was called. EcoSociety is a non-partisan organization. We are sharing information on issues related to the health, safety and well-being of our communities, climate, ecosystems, food systems & energy.