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Urban mayors outline to province two issues they need help with

Mayor Lyn Hall

Municipal government need an expanded set of sustainable, predictable and reliable funding tools to address the needs of their communities, upgrade aging infrastructure, and create accessible and sustainable cities.

That was the message the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus delivered to Premier John Horgan and Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne during a recent meeting to discuss strengthening the municipal financing system and the need for complex care housing.. Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall is part of the caucus.

“Local governments currently receive eight cents of every tax dollar, but are responsible for roughly 60 per cent of the infrastructure in British Columbia,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, co-chairs of the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus, and District of Vanderhoof Councillor Brian Frenkel, President of the Union of BC Municipalities in a statement following the meeting. “The current local government financial framework is too reliant on property tax, which neither grows with the economy nor distributes costs fairly.”

The statement added that Horgan and Osborne expressed their support to work towards addressing concerns with the local government finance system.  The mayors will look at making the topic a focus of the 2021 UBCM Convention, building on the work now underway to update the Union of B.C. Municipalities Strong Fiscal Futures: A Blueprint for Strengthening BC Local Government’s Finance System report.

“We were also encouraged to hear from the premier that he recognizes the pressing need for new complex care housing facilities in communities across B.C. to serve people with complex health needs who are falling through the cracks and aren’t being served by the supportive housing models and programs currently available,” the mayors’ statement reads. “In recent meetings with Housing Minister David Eby and Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson, the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus proposed that the Province initiate a pilot project of at least five Complex Care Housing sites, to be up and operating within a year to accelerate B.C.’s response to addressing the mental health, substance use and homelessness crises.”

They were equally encouraged to hear the premier’s commitment to working with all orders of government to find, and fund, the best care possible for the people of British Columbia.

“A new model of care in B.C. which expands the availability of the full range of substance use and mental health treatment and recovery options, including the creation of appropriate housing facilities for those with complex needs, will benefit everyone in our communities that are on the frontline battling these crises each and every day.

“The premier agreed that health care is going to continue to be critical, from complex care housing and the vaccination rollout, to stronger mental health supports and ensuring our elderly residents have the care and support they need. He noted the province funds 80 per cent of health care services, and a return to higher investment from the federal government will be critical to meeting communities’ needs.”

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