This year’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Annual Convention — like so many events this year — was unlike any other, but conference chair and newly-elected UBCM executive vice-president Laurey-Anne Roodenburg says there was lots of valuable information.
Roodenburg provided a verbal report from the Sept. 22-24 convention at the Oct. 6 Quesnel council meeting.
“This year was a totally different experience for UBCM; it was a virtual conference and AGM,” said Roodenburg, who was acting mayor at the council meeting. “We had over 1,000 people attend. We thought that was pretty good considering we normally have about 2,000 in person. There were a few interesting bumps along the way, i.e. a snap election was called on Monday, so that caused us to eliminate a panel session that hosted a lot of the ministers that were no longer ministers, and we did some switching of other panels. All three party leaders were still get in their allotted speaking times, but they spoke as party leaders and not as opposition or premier.”
Roodenburg was the conference chair this year.
“With my team, we were able to navigate what this conference would look like, and we decided on the virtual format,” said Roodenburg. “We weren’t sure how well it would be received, and like I said, we had over 1,000 people who attended the event online. We had an amazing company that was able to host the event online. Everything was set up like we were at the UBCM Convention, except there was like seven UBCM members, two staff, and the rest were all of the guys who were doing all of the technical work.”
Roodenburg told council one of the sessions she found important was Re-imagining Leadership: Lessons From the Pandemic, which was a sit-down discussion with the past UBCM president Maja Tait, B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Kim Baird, former chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation.
“It was a discussion of what leadership in a pandemic meant for each of them, and, as most of you saw in the paper, what happened was Dr. Henry actually discussed about how being in that leadership role, she had received online threats, etc.,” said Roodenburg. “It’s just one of those things that, because it was a group of women, let’s just say it was acknowledged that that’s not an uncommon piece that happens, unfortunately.”
Roodenburg chaired two sessions at this year’s convention.
“Both of those pieces that I got to chair were really quite valuable when I think about what’s going on here in Quesnel,” she said.
One session was Digitally Enabled: Remote and Ready.
“[It was] a timely piece when you talk about connectivity in our communities and given the fact so many of our communities became so reliant on being able to connect virtually,” said Roodenburg. “There was a really good discussion about what that looked like, how you can up the game a little bit, and we talked about a community access network that happens in North Kootenay Lake communities are.”
The other session was Economic Recovery: Building Back Bigger and Stronger.
“There were several economic development people on the panel, including our very own manager, Amy Reid, and Gregory Lawrence, who is our Community Futures manager,” said Roodenburg, adding she was very pleased she had the opportunity to chair this particular session. “The idea was to talk about working through the pandemic and trying to make sure the economies in their communities were able to at least maintain, if not move forward bigger and better moving forward. Amy and Greg Lawrence talked about our Business Hotline program that we did early in the pandemic. As several of you already know, we won awards for that particular program, and I know I’ve spoken to Amy since, and she’s had a few phone calls from various communities wanting to know how we managed that program, how we set it up and how come we were so successful with it.”
This year, there were more than 200 resolutions at the UBCM Convention.
Roodenburg said they did not get to all of them, but they discussed the resolutions for about two and a half hours, with voting taking place online.
“Interesting process — I’d like to say we don’t have to do it again next year, but we know we can if we have to,” she said.
At the end of the convention, Roodenburg was acclaimed as the UBCM executive board’s first vice-president.
“It’s already an exciting time because we’re trying to get our package together to give to all the party leaders about what local governments’ asks are, so we hit the ground running this year,” she said.