Kimberley Mayor Ron McRae joined 70 of his peers at the B.C. Mayors Caucus in Prince George last week and he it was positive and productive meeting.
Not all of B.C.’s mayors attended, McRae said — the largest meeting of the Caucus occurs at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September. However, it was definitely a large enough meeting to draw government notice. The provincial government put out a statement to the Mayors Caucus, reminding them of just how much funding the province does direct to municipalities.
NDP leader Adrian Dix attended the meeting, as did UBCM President Mary Sjostrom.
It was important that the meeting was noticed at higher levels of government, McRae said.
“We want to keep municipalities on the government’s radar,” he said. “We’re not going to go away.”
The primary purpose of the Mayors Caucus is to try to find a way to sustainability of funding to municipalities, and perhaps get a bigger piece of the tax pie. Currently municipalities receive only eight per cent of every tax dollar.
While getting more tax dollars may be a difficult goal, there are ways that current funding could be made more streamlined.
McRae says the meetings made progress on that front.
“There was a lot of discussion around having a Ministry dedicated to local government,” he said. “There used to be one but it was folded into a larger Ministry.”
Currently municipal affairs are dealt with by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
The Mayors Caucus is calling for one ministry.
“It’s important in getting direct attention to the needs of municipalities,” McRae said. “Grants would then flow through that one ministry. It would streamline the grant process and get decisions made faster. There was a lot of discussion around that.
“Everyone is aware of the needs around infrastructure, but there are process needs that are important as well.”
The next Mayors Caucus meeting will be in Vancouver during UBCM week in September.