Counsellor Siebenga’s experience at UBCM

Promoting Houston and bringing forward concerns in education and forestry

At the Sept. 25 to Sept. 29, 2017 Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, counsellor John Siebenga of the District of Houston, accounts promoting the community in a way that makes the convention a worthwhile exercise for the entire town.

“The resolutions that have been brought forward by different municipalities is the main thrust of these UBCM conventions,” said counsellor Siebenga.

Counsellor Siebenga explained that much of the convention is spent voting on resolutions presented by municipalities, which are are then taken to lobby in the provincial and federal governments and some corporations.

“For example, the city of Quesnel brought forward a resolution to lobby the provincial government to change Family Day from the second Monday in February to the third Monday, which passed quite readily,” said counsellor Siebenga. “That sounds pretty innocuous enough, but North Saanich presented a resolution that would lobby the provincial government to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.”

Hydraulic fracturing is a process where hot steam in put into the ground to bring out oil and gas closer to the surface. Siebenga said that this resolution did not pass by a very slim majority.

District of Houston counsellors stated their case to the Ministry of Advanced Education asking what is going to be done about the Northwest Community College closure in Houston.

To the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Operations, counsellors of the District of Houston were able to voice their displeasure that Dungate Community Forest had not received a larger allotment of timber to harvest this year.

“Houston was denied 10,000 cubic meters of timber, whereas neighbouring communities received 35,000 cubic meters,” said Siebenga.

“We’ve stated our case and put the needs and wants of Houston on the provincial government laps,” he said. “We hope that they look at it and treat it with respect.”

Counsellor Siebenga explained that months before the UBCM begins a notice is sent by the province and different provincial ministries to arrange meetings.

“This year was considerably different as we have a brand new government that had only been in place for seven or eight weeks. We were only able to meet with three ministries this year, ” said counsellor Siebenga.

This five day convention consists of over 12 hours days full keynote speakers, tours, and a trade show filled with over 200 different companies advertising their businesses.

“There are also forums and workshops that counsellors can take,” said counsellor Siebenga. “From recent marijuana legislation to what to do when social media becomes a soap box for abuse of council and senior staff. I have gone in the agricultural tour two years running. As I look at Houston, I am always trying to think of different ways that we could diversity our economy.”

Counsellor Siebenga says that farming is one of those ways.

“I toured the Cranberry Research Station this year, which really peaked my interest since bush cranberries grow wild around here,” he said.

He asked the tour guide about growing cranberries in a northern climate.

“She said that if we have the right kind of soil and the cranberries get a good layer of snow in the winter, there should be no reason why they could not grow up here,” said counsellor Siebenga.

He went on to say he promoted Houston with every chance he got, giving away pins and offering a very easy solution to the housing shortage and affordability of housing issue in the lower mainland and in Victoria.

“Move to Houston. We have lots of cheap, affordable housing,” he said.

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