Mayors descend on Oak Bay later this month in hopes of moulding the provincial election this spring.
Twice a year mayors from around B.C. meet to learn about the industries that drive the provincial economy, participate in field tours and spend a day discussing emerging issues.
One of those meetings is held during the fall Union of BC Municipalities convention with the other hosted by various communities. The 2016 caucus was held in May in Fort St. John. Oak Bay hosts the BC Mayors’ Caucus Feb. 22 to 24, earlier in part to be ahead of the May election.
“It brings together mayors from all over British Columbia to discuss issues of mutual interest,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who made the bid last year to host. “Part of it is education to update mayors on current issues, but part of it is to come to an agreement on the kinds of issues we want the senior levels of government to take action on.”
The organization is about five years old and started in Penticton.
“At our conference what we hope to do is identify a number of issues that will be discussed and debated during the provincial election in May. It’s to ensure the debates held among candidates and the platforms, address the issues of common concern to the mayors,” Jensen said.
“We as mayors want to be heard and we as mayors want to help set the agenda for the upcoming election and for the new government whoever that might be.”
About 100 mayors are expected to meet at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel to identify issues and plan how to bring them to the attention of the public and provincial parties.
A prime example in Oak Bay, that affects other municipalities as well, is the grants in lieu of taxes for having the University of Victoria fall partially within Oak Bay.
“We’re providing significant resources in policing, and fire and planning to the university but we’re not able to tax the university. Instead we rely on almost a charitable handout that have been decreasing over the years,” Jensen said.
MLAs are invited to the opening reception that includes UBCM executive. Thursday is a working day and a Friday morning study session introduces the mayors to the emergency coordination centre for BC at the navy base in Esquimalt.
“During any disaster, natural or otherwise, the mayors of a community are expected to take a leading role in dealing with the problem. This is a way to show and educate the mayors as to what would happen in the event of a province-wide or western Canada-wide disaster or event,” Jensen said.
In that event, the Esquimalt centre would serve as a command centre co-ordinating resources for recovery.
“I’m very proud that Oak Bay was selected to be the host,” Jensen said. “This is the first time we’ve had the spring meeting on the Island so we’re very pleased and honoured that we were selected.”