Archive for the 'UBCM notes' category

accessible opportunity

November 8, 2007

During the 2007 UBCM convention in September, I attended a panel discussion on how cities can be more welcoming to residents and visitors by being more accessible. These are some very brief notes from that discussion.

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30 years to climate crisis

November 5, 2007

Dr. Thomas Hunter-Dixon is Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto. He was keynote speaker Wednesday afteroon during the 2007 UBCM Convention this past September. He explained the causes and newly discovered impacts of climate change, the ways society must change to adapt, and the timeline for preventing ecological crisis.

These are my notes from his presentation.

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TILMA talk

During the 2007 UBCM convention in September, I attended a panel discussion on the controversial Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between BC and Alberta.

What was most contentious is that it seemed the agreement might disallow municipalities from having a bias toward local suppliers or service providers – a ’shop local’ policy. The best the Minister of Economic Development could come up with in response was, why would you want to do that?

He said that cities giving preference to local suppliers was “protectionist” and not good for the economy since, if one did it, everyone would do it and then no business in BC would be successful. Though not an exact quote, that is essentially what the minister and his staff said.

He failed to understand why municipalities would want to support businesses in their own community or region, and instead of respecting local government’s right to make its own decisions, he argued against shop local policies. What was most disappointing is that the minister was too busy arguing on ideology to realize that it was irrelevant to the discussion.

After a lengthy Q&A session, most local government representatives came to understand that the TILMA would not restrict their zoning bylaws or other such regulations. It is only intended to ensure Alberta companies are treated the same as BC companies. So any rule that prevents an Alberta company from doing business in a city must be equally discriminating to BC companies; i.e. if an Alberta company loses a bid for a contract, it must be for a reason other than the simple fact that they are from Alberta.

There seemed to be consensus among all present that reducing trade barriers between provinces is a good idea, so long as it doesn’t result in a reduction in safety or environmental standards, or restrict local governments from having shop local policies. In the end, it was also agreed that the wording of the agreement is too ambiguous and doesn’t precisely reflect its intention.

Donald Lidstone, legal advisor for the UBCM
A clause in the Community Charter obligates a city to consider the good of the province of a whole, the greater good. Including municipalities in the TILMA might be unnecessary.

Many cities existed before Canada or BC. Cities have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as an order of government. “Municipalities are the most important order of government. They are the closest to the people, nearest to the needs and expectations of the people.” The province should be more respectful of local government’s autonomy.

As currently worded, the TILMA could be interpreted as not allowing municipalities to have local preference for tenders and procurement. Since it imposes obligations on municipalities but is an agreement between provinces, in the event of a challenge under TILMA, cities cannot defend themselves; the province defends on their behalf.

The risk is that, if the province doesn’t believe in a city’s policy, they might not really try very hard to defend it and lose the appeal, whereas it might be very important to the city but they have no opportunity to defend their own policy. Another fear is that cities might be harassed or bullied by companies with pockets deep enough to have lawyers file groundless or petty appeals, which leads back to the concern about how well the language in the agreement reflects its intention.

Colin Hansen, Minister of Economic Development
It is easier to do cross border business in Europe – across international boundaries – than it is within Canada between provinces.

For more information on the TILMA, there is a good report from the GVRD that summarized the issues. Also, materials are available on the Ministry and UBCM websites.

BC cities tackle climate change

November 3, 2007

The 2007 Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference was held at the end of September. There was a pre-conference session on climate change. The following are notes from a panel discussion on the things some BC cities are already doing to mitigate the human contribution to climate change. Read on »

UBCM – Housing panel

October 23, 2006

These are some notes I took today during presentations on different housing strategies in BC at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference in Victoria.

Judy Villeneuve, City of Surrey Councillor
Surrey established a charity foundation to manage and distribute funds collected from developers for affordable housing.

There is funding available from BC Housing for measuring the community’s housing needs and determining options for addressing those needs.

Felice Mazzoni, Ucluelet Planner
In Ucluelet, they’ve incorporated LEED and affordable housing design guidelines into their OCP.

They require that 15-20% of units in a development be affordable, as defined by CMHC. It is achieved through the Development Permit process, not rezoning.

They require an appropriate quantity of staff housing to accompany commercial developments. The occupancy permit is held until the staff housing is ready for occupancy.

Crown land might be used if the city has no land of its own.

The developer doesn’t necessarily have to own the land. They could be allowed to build affordable housing on crown land or donated land as part of their density bonus.

He recommends lowering the base density allowable and then allow bonusing. “Don’t give away your density for free.”

Agreements are set in place that allow locals an opportunity to purchase SFD and condos at a discount before they are available on the open market.

Recommended to take cash. Cash provides options.

“You are the leaders of your communities, so be bold with your policies.”

Housing Management Plan drafted by non-profit with assistance from the City. It specifies targets for sizes and types of housing. The City partners with non-profit societies to manage the housing.

Challenge is how to measure/count private rentals.

Until recently, 25% of the project cost was land. It is now 50%

Lowering parking standards greatly reduces construction costs.

If public land is available, a long-term lease might be an alternate option to selling.