Victoria ruffles UBCM feathers — again

For the third year in a row, a City of Victoria delegation is heading to the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) resolved to advance the interests of the province’s trade union movement

For the third year in a row, a City of Victoria delegation is heading to the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) resolved to advance the interests of the province’s trade union movement.

And, for the third year in a row, the executive of the UBCM is going to politely tell Victoria to put a sock in it.

The issue is the city’s perennial aversion to “for-profit” health-care clinics. It is a deeply partisan provincial issue that usually divides New Democrats and Liberals. It is not an issue that tends to emerge as a municipal priority.

As I mentioned last week, the UBCM (Sept. 26 to 30) is the closest thing B.C. has to an annual political summit. It is attended by representatives of every city and hamlet, as well as every MLA.

It is a forum for vibrant debate about real local issues such as taxation for public transit, municipal policing costs and the distribution of gaming grants.

It is a forum where cities of the size and stature of Victoria are expected to champion issues that are relevant and timely, not issues that serve only to define who is on the left and who is on the right of the political spectrum.

The UBCM executive bends over backwards to give as many of the important issues of the day as much exposure as possible on the convention floor. It also bends over backwards to avoid issues which are so partisan that they cannot be adjudicated without rancor.

“For-profit” clinics belong in the latter category … rancorous.

In 2009, Victoria submitted resolution B-147 which called for “a moratorium on any further expansion of private, for-profit surgical and MRI/CT clinics,” and “an end to public funding of for-profit clinics, including the contracting-out of day surgeries and the provision of health authority contracts to for-profit clinics.”

At the time, former Green Party councillor Sonya Chandler told reporters the resolution was “inspired” by the B.C. Health Coalition. The coalition is populated by every significant trade union organization in B.C. and its primary function is to support union jobs in a union-dominated public health care system.

The UBCM resolution committee allowed B-147 to die a quiet death deep inside the resolution book.

Undeterred, the City of Victoria came right back in 2010 with the exact same resolution, “B-155” this time. The UBCM resolutions committee let it die a second time and delicately reminded Victoria that the resolution had not made it to the convention floor in 2009.

This year the city has made a third absurd attempt to force this divisive partisan issue — now “B-159” — onto a convention agenda that is packed with issues of actual importance.

The resolutions committee has made it clear that it considers the “high profile” resolution to be needlessly “controversial.” It has also reminded Victoria that a 2002 UBCM resolution supported the universal and comprehensive principles of Medicare.

Nevertheless, the city refuses to get the message and its partner, the B.C. Health Coalition, continues to urge other municipalities to support the cause. Happily it won’t amount to anything since the resolutions committee is refusing to endorse B-159 this year.

Also encouraging is the fact that city council’s three-year mandate expires this fall. Hope springs eternal that an injection of new blood in the November civic election will restore some common sense at City Hall ahead of UBCM 2012. M

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