Kamloops Coun. Arjun Singh was acclaimed on Wednesday as president of the Union of BC Municipalities.
“As president, you are essentially the lead advocate for local governments across the province,” Singh told KTW.
The three-term city councillor, who is up for re-election this fall, was previously a vice-president for the organization that provides a collective voice for communities in the province.
Singh was acclaimed on Wednesday during the annual UBCM convention, which wraps up in Whistler on Friday. Also in attendance from Kamloops are Mayor Ken Christian, councillors Dieter Dudy and Ray Dhaliwal and CAO David Trawin.
Part of UBCM’s executive for five years, Singh has spent two years as director at large and three as vice-president. Singh’s president role will be for one year and is paid. He will step back from responsibility related to his private property management to accommodate a busier schedule.
The position will be contingent on Singh being re-elected in the Oct. 20 civic election.
Singh said the opportunity provides in-depth knowledge on issues like housing, cannabis, policing and climate action.
“There’s a lot of information that you learn about that helps, I think, a city councillor,” he said.
“Ethically, some things you can’t divulge for sure, but there’s a lot of things that come up that you’re able to bring locally.”
Christian lauded the opportunity as a “tremendous honour.”
He noted Coun. Pat Wallace also previously served as UBCM president and said it speaks to Kamloops’ contribution to local government in B.C.
When KTW caught up with Christian on Thursday morning, he was preparing to play hooky with Trawin.
Christian and Trawin were headed in the afternoon to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.
Christian said the centre, which showcases art, history and culture of the Lil’wat and Squamish nations, could inspire plans for the former Stuart Wood elementary school in downtown Kamloops.
He said the city has expressed to the province its desire, and the desire of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, to transform that building into a culture centre.
The title on the building, however, remains with the province and has a covenant restricting its use to educational purposes.
“Meantime, we’ve got this beautiful building that sits,” Christian said.
Earlier in the morning, city delegates met with Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy about the opioid crisis, expressing concern about its impacts on the city.
Christian said access to detox treatment, more support for Car 40 (a police cruiser carrying a Mountie and a mental-health nurse), better distribution and retrieval mechanism for discarded needles and syringes and other issues related to mental-health treatment were discussed.
“There’s certainly a lot of interest in Kamloops,” Christian said, noting other communities such as Nanaimo raised similar concerns with Darcy.
Other meetings included with the BC Lottery Corporation regarding the loss of revenue in gambling funds.
The city stands to lose about $500,000 by the end of the month due to a strike by workers at Cascades Casino that began on June 29.
Christian said discussions also included meeting with BC Transit about right-sizing buses. The city’s CNG fleet consists of large buses and Christian said some routes would be better serviced by medium-sized vehicles.
Other meetings included with Kinder Morgan, the BC Archeology Branch, Emergency Management BC and Fortis BC.
“We’ve had some very positive meetings with governments,” Christian said.
“We’ve had good opportunities to talk to cities in particular Kelowna and Prince George.”
On Thursday, the UBCM passed a resolution to lobby the province to share with communities 40 per cent of cannabis tax revenue in the first two years (projected to be $125 million). Recreational cannabis becomes legal on Oct. 17.
A resolution that came out of Kamloops council chambers regarding the proximity of mining projects to municipalities is scheduled to be debated on Friday.
That resolution stemmed from the Ajax mine application and asks that municipalities have a say in mining applications within 10 kilometres of their boundaries