When lobbyists become lobbied

Rally outside UBCM convention urged delegates to vote for Resolution B59.

Rally outside UBCM convention urged delegates to vote for Resolution B59.

By MEL ROTHENBURGER

Regional districts are a very close-to-home form of government but they’re also part of a collective local voice on many issues.

During the current federal election, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been lobbying hard for infrastructure and other needs for communities and extracting promises from political parties that these will be addressed.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities also lobbies senior governments. Sometimes, the tables are turned, with the UBCM being the one that is lobbied. That was certainly the case at this year’s UBCM convention in Vancouver. Member municipalities and regional districts — often at the behest of organizations whose views they support — submit resolutions to the convention for debate, usually aimed at asking the provincial government to take action.

This year, external lobby groups were much in evidence, trying to persuade delegates to vote for certain resolutions. Co-incidentally, many of these issues were closely related to the concerns of rural areas, especially on environmental matters.

Sometimes the lobbying is done before the convention, sometimes during the convention, and sometimes both. One of the most persistent lobby efforts was made on behalf of a resolution presented by Richmond calling for the provincial government to declare an environmental bill of rights.

For several weeks prior to the convention, delegates received email letters on a daily basis urging them to vote for it. While these emails came from many different people, they were all identical.

Quite frankly, it quickly became an annoyance as my in-box was cluttered with this repetitious tactic. I voted for the resolution in spite of the lobbying effort, not because of.

Many others didn’t, for reasons including doubts that it would work, fears that it would harm rural economies, and suspicions about the motives of “cappuccino-sucking condo-dwellers” from the city.

Another intense lobby effort was launched months ago by the Our Horizon not-for-profit environmental group. A few weeks ago, the group asked the TNRD board to support a UBCM resolution proposing climate-change warning labels on gas-pump nozzles.

I was in a distinct minority on our board in supporting the idea, but when the resolution, sponsored by Colwood, came up at the convention, it passed in a close vote. Clearly, the lobbying raised awareness among delegates so that when it came to the convention floor, they understood it.

There were many other examples of lobby efforts on behalf of rural environmental issues — such as the Site C dam in the Peace and biosolids near Merritt — and they all played a legitimate role in the democratic system.

The biosolids resolution, by the way, was jointly proposed by Merritt and the TNRD. It passed, and now the UBCM will ask the province to look at changes to the biosolids review process.

 This column was first published in the Sun Peaks Independent News.

 

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