UBCM convention a win for Castlegar
Castlegar city council returned triumphant this weekend from the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention, held in Vancouver from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.
All six councillors, along with the mayor, were in attendance for a convention that saw unanimous support for the key issues Castlegar brought to the table – most particularly, concerns over major industry taxation, after Castlegar’s single largest rate-payer, Celgar, declined to pay its municipal tax bill this summer.
“Taxation came to the forefront, and that’s really what we were after,” said Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff, adding that a Castlegar resolution asking that municipalities no longer be responsible for collecting taxes on behalf of the regional districts was also well-received. “That was referred to the UBCM executive. It’ll be parcelled with the special taxation resolution and taken to the province.
“It (how to manage tax burdens between jurisdictions) will probably be some of the criteria for the task force we hope will be formed (by the province, in response to the larger resolution).
“The goal really is a more holistic approach, looking at the big picture and how major industry taxation affects everyone in B.C.”
Chernoff said he was unsurprised at Premier Gordon Campbell’s departure from tradition this year – historically, the premier’s UBCM speech is a venue in which money is handed out and new funding initiatives announced, but this year, Gordon said the well is dry.
“We ran out of money in the provincial government about $2.8 billion ago,” Campbell told the assembled delegates.
Chernoff said he saw the announcement coming, “well, if you don’t have the revenue, you’ve got nothing to spend … it’s really that simple.”
Chernoff may have been particularly sympathetic to Campbell’s woes at the UBCM, given Castlegar’s current $3.6 million budget shortfall (the tax amount unpaid by Celgar), but he said he’s also optimistic.
“Our job now is to position the city such that, when the money starts to flow again, we’ll be able to do the things Castlegar wants to get done.
“There’s really no other forum (like the UBCM); no other opportunity for this kind of networking and collaboration, which is so important,” he said.