September is convention time for municipal elected officials. The big event during the month is the UBCM Conference and Election of Officers. It is commonly just referred to as “UBCM” which stands for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. It is an event that attracts Mayors, Councillors, CEOs, and CFOs from communities all over the province.
UBCM 2023 ran from September 18 to 22 and was hosted at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The theme this year was “Balancing Act” and with the type of schedule we had, it was the perfect theme. It was the third UBCM for all of us on the Princeton Town Council. Our first was in Vancouver in 2019, the 2020 and 2021 events were virtual due to the pandemic, and the 2022 conference was in Whistler. Regardless of the venue, the organizers always put on a first-class event filled with interesting workshops, sessions, presentations, and social activities.
My schedule was fairly full as I wanted to attend as many sessions as possible however, scheduling conflicts with meetings planned with ministry officials cut into those plans. Here is a brief rundown of what UBCM was for me.
Sunday, September 17
I got to Vancouver in the early evening. Traffic was backed up due to an accident outside of Abbotsford, so my arrival was later than I had expected. I got checked into the hotel and settled by 6:30 PM. I took it easy that evening taking a walk in the neighbourhood and ending up on the seawall. It was a nice way to start a week in Vancouver.
Monday, September 18
I attended a couple of two-hour sessions during the day: “Building Economic Resiliency” and “Building Homes, Building Communities.” I had a third event booked, but could not make it. Our first ministry meeting was in the afternoon and was with Bruce Ralston (Ministry of Forests) and his staff. The evening featured a reception hosted by FortisBC. I finished the day with another walk on the seawall.
Tuesday, September 19
This was one of our busiest days. I attended the “Small Talk Forum” and had to leave near the end to be with the rest of council at our second ministry meeting with Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation. That was quickly followed by our third meeting with Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. I attended the “Small Talk Forum Lunch” and then in the afternoon, went to our fourth meeting with Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship which was followed by our fifth meeting of the conference with BC Premier David Eby. I went for another seawall walk in the early evening and enjoyed some social networking afterward at the “Welcome Reception.”
Wednesday, September 20
Today was a bit of a working day for me as I took a couple of writing projects with me and spent the morning completing them. I attended the SILGA (Southern Interior Local Government Association) lunch. I had been at the annual SILGA Convention this past April in Vernon. Our sixth meeting was with Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing and our seventh meeting of the week was later in the afternoon with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff. I checked out the massive UBCM Trade Show, fit in another seawall walk, and attended three different receptions in the evening. I started at the one hosted by the BC Government, then headed over to one hosted by COFI (BC Council of Forest Industries), and finished at the CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) reception. These receptions allow me to meet other municipal officials from different parts of BC, share ideas, and generally socialize. They also bring me in contact with delegates I’ve met at other conferences so we can catch up or renew friendships.
Thursday, September 21
In the morning, I attended our final meeting of UBCM with Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Innovation. The “minister meetings” give us a private 15-minute audience with a provincial government minister and/or staff to discuss various issues of concern to our community. They often produce various levels of success and, according to our Mayor at the October 5 regular meeting of Town Council, there has already been some follow-up from more than one of our meetings at UBCM. I attended the Delegate's Lunch and a wonderful Port of Vancouver Harbour Tour where delegates were shown the shipping activity in Burrard Inlet. The evening featured the UBCM Reception, and I finished the night at the UBCM Banquet.
Friday, September 22
The final day of UBCM is usually just a morning of keynote speakers. I opted to skip that so I could head home early like many of the over 2,000 delegates who attended the 2023 event. My usually good sense of direction failed me and it took me an hour to get out of Vancouver. I was quite happy to pull into my driveway in Princeton later that afternoon.
Although there are many social activities planned during UBCM, there are as many business items, meetings, and important events included. For me, I find importance in the “minister meetings” where we sit as an entire council team with a minister and staff to discuss matters that impact our local citizens. These meetings give us a forum that is more direct than an email, phone call, or video chat. They also foster dialogue and collaboration. I also find importance in attending key sessions and always try to sign up for ones that have some connection to the needs of our community. It is challenging to attend everything provided at one of these conferences, but whatever you fit in is always worth it.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly community newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.