Delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last week.

BRIEFS: Oil, marijuana, metal theft among UBCM issues

Civic delegates urge caution on smart meters, oil exports and P3 projects

Smart meter freeze urged

The campaign to defeat B.C. Hydro’s rollout of wireless smart meters got a boost from mayors and councillors at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention Friday.

Delegates voted 55 per cent to support a moratorium on the mandatory installation of smart meters until major issues can be resolved.

“There is an important element of personal choice,” Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington said. “Some people are sensitive to this radiation and only a small amount affects them.”

She said city councils across the province have been deluged in email by people deeply concerned about the possible health impacts.

Some civic leaders who supported the call for a moratorium said they don’t share fears about health risks but think other concerns deserve more attention, from the cost of the meter program to the potential to charge higher rates at peak times.

An initial show of hands was inconclusive so the final vote was conducted electronically – using wireless voting devices.

No delegates spoke against the resolution.

Premier Christy Clark said the smart meter installations will continue, despite the UBCM resolution.

Hydro crews have already installed 100,000 smart meters across B.C. and that’s to rise to 250,000 by later this fall.

“I don’t share those health concerns,” Clark said Friday.

She said B.C. needs an efficient smart grid to save money on electricity delivery and foster economic growth.

 

Medical marijuana debated

Defenders of the right to grow pot under a medical marijuana licence scored a small victory when they derailed a resolution that sought to require distribution be only through licensed commercial growers.

Several Metro Vancouver cities want tighter rules to cut down on the number of grow-ops blamed for feeding organized crime and causing safety risks.

Donna Shugar, a Sunshine Coast Regional District director, said forcing users to buy through producers might leave the poor and disabled unable to affordably get medical marijuana if they can no longer grow their own.

She said concerns about safety could instead be dealt with by reducing the number of plants a licensed user can grow.

A Metchosin rep called marijuana part of the fabric of B.C. society and said the government should “stop pussyfooting around the issue” and simply decriminalize pot.

Others said the resolution was redundant because Ottawa has already indicated its planned overhaul of the licensing system will phase out individual growing permits.

It’s the third straight year UBCM delegates have blocked resolutions demanding tighter restrictions on medical pot.

 

Private water projects opposed

UBCM delegates passed a Burnaby-sponsored resolution calling on the federal government to allow continued public ownership of water and sewer plants when doling out infrastructure grants.

Ottawa requires big local projects in line for grants to first go through a P3 assessment to see if money can be saved by building them as public-private partnerships.

The issue has been hot in the Fraser Valley, where Mission and Abbotsford councils are split over whether a shared water supply expansion should be publicly or privately built. Abbotsford is now pursuing the P3 water project itself, over Mission’s objections.

Metro Vancouver also faces decisions on the use of P3 partners as it plans to rebuild two major sewage treatment plants and add new waste-to-energy plants.

Public sector unions had urged civic reps to take the anti-P3 stand.

 

Call for casino rules overhaul

B.C. cities are demanding tougher scrutiny of gambling due to the infiltration of casinos by organized crime.

Delegates at UBCM passed a resolution that argues the provincial Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is in a conflict of interest because it oversees both the B.C. Lottery Corp., which runs casino gambling, and the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch that regulates it.

Separate ministries should oversee those functions, according to the resolution, which also calls for a review of public gambling to restore confidence and a probe by the Auditor General into how charities benefit.

 

Oil tanker concerns lodged

Cities are demanding close scrutiny of plans to pump more oil for export through the Lower Mainland.

Kinder Morgan wants to more than double the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline that sends oil sands crude from Alberta to its terminal in north Burnaby, where oil is loaded onto tankers that sail past downtown Vancouver.

An emergency resolution passed by UBCM delegates calls for the highest degree of environmental assessment and meaningful public consultation on any plans to ship more oil by pipeline or tanker in B.C.

About 70 double-hulled oil tankers a year are harnessed to tugs and steered by local pilots through Burrard Inlet.

Kinder Morgan is also able to send oil from the pipeline south into Washington State at Sumas.

UBCM last year objected to plans by Enbridge to build its Northern Gateway pipeline across northern B.C.

 

Metal, carbon and tanning

Delegates also registered their concerns about wire theft, carbon offsets and the health risks of tanning beds.

The ongoing scourge of metal theft should be dealt with through consistent provincial rules to regulate metal dealers, recyclers and pawnshops, according to a Langley Township resolution that passed without debate. Similar resolutions were advanced by Maple Ridge, West Kelowna and Greenwood.

UBCM delegates also voted to call on the province to ban youths under 18 from using indoor tanning beds.

They also backed a call to have cities’ local emission reduction projects be counted as an acceptable purchase of carbon offsets.

Several cities object to buying carbon offsets through the province’s Pacific Carbon Trust in order to meet their commitment to reach carbon neutral status.