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Froese has high hopes following historic meeting

At the May 18 B.C. Mayors’ Caucus, Township Mayor Jack Froese shared a table with, among others, Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver, and Carman Graf, the mayor of Telkwa.

It was an historic meeting, as it marked the first-ever meeting of B.C. mayors.

Structured on successful models across the continent and Europe, the 86 mayors from across the province called for talks to begin immediately with Premier Christy Clark and her government on ways to examine B.C. communities with the specific purpose of using existing resources more efficiently to address the challenges facing residents.

Froese said that as a new mayor he found the Mayors’ Caucus, which was held in Penticton, an invaluable networking opportunity.

Despite the diversity at his table alone, with Robertson mayor of the province’s largest city and Graf presiding over a small community of 1,300 residents, Froese found that all communities have a major issue in common: continuing downloading of responsibilities by senior levels of government, and cuts to funding.

To be able to approach the provincial and federal governments with a united voice is invaluable, Froese said.

Property taxes are the single largest source of funding for municipalities “but we have to find other ways,” Froese commented after the Penticton caucus.

“We have to look to other ways to bring sustainable money to municipalities.”

In a statement that concluded the meeting, the mayors issued the statement that “B.C. communities are frontline service providers for our citizens and we are seeking a new partnership with the provincial and federal governments in the best interests of all of our communities. The B.C. Mayors’ Caucus requests an immediate discussion on the efficient use of existing resources to better address the challenges our residents face.”

The mayors outlined a number of specific areas that need to be addressed including:

* Create a Premier’s Round Table with the Mayors’ Caucus to discuss public policy changes that affect local government budgets and delivery of services;

* Eliminate the ad hoc granting process in favour of one that is sustainable, accountable, quantifiable and allows for long term planning by local governments;

* Expand the mandate of the Municipal Auditor General to include an examination of the financial impacts of downloading on local governments;

* Develop a round table on aging infrastructure that includes federal, provincial and local government participation;

Affirm the core service delivery of each order of government;

* Redesign the cost sharing formula for significant infrastructure projects to reflect the tax revenue distribution;

* If services are devolved to local governments, a sustainable revenue source for those services must be identified;

* Develop a coordinated approach to how social services are delivered into a community;

* Call for a full review of ambulance service delivery;

* Establish flexibility around the federal gas tax to be goal oriented to the priorities of the specific communities, and

* Expand the application of the fair share principles province-wide and to include other industry sectors.

Steering committee member Mayor Shari Green of Prince George said the feeling in the room was clear: “This was an incredibly beneficial meeting where it became evident that B.C. mayors have, for the first time, come together as peers with a single voice. This is a new day in the way we as mayors will move forward for the benefit of all of our residents.”

Mayor Dianne Watts of Surrey summed up the event in her closing remarks:

“By coming together as peers, we have, for the first time in B.C. history, established a single voice that is strong in our conviction that we need all orders of government to work together for the best interests of all of our residents.”

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