Local politician re-elected to UBCM Executive

Trent Ernst, Editor
 
Jerrilyn Schembri, former councilor for the District of Tumbler Ridge and current Area E Representative for the Peace River Regional District has been re-elected as a Director at large for the Union of BC Municipalities. 
 
Schembri has held the position for the last three years, and is one of five directors at large. Other members include the mayor of Chilliwack and the Mayor of Terrace, as well as councilors from Prince George and Campbell River. 
 
Schembri says that local government is being squeezed in this province. “The provincial government has been downloading responsibilities for services they have historically managed onto local government, while at the same time, the people who live in the towns and cities and municipalities local officials serve expect to receive the same or increased levels of services,” says Schembri. “Now is not an easy time to be a member of local government. But now is our time. So rather than try and shift the responsibility or to lay blame, local governments need to come up with creative ways to govern.”
 
Schembri says it won’t be easy, but that’s what the UBCM is all about: a way for community leaders and local government to communicate with each other. “We need to learn from each other. Teach each other. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own borders: but issues such as policing, creating livable communities for those with disabilities, taxation, infrastructure and social issues affect us all.”
 
The provincial government has been taking steps over the last few years that impact local governments without consulting local governments, says Schembri. One of the rolls of the UBCM is to enter into discussions with the province on these issues and offer suggestions, guidance and input. “When something affects local government,” says Schembri, “it impacts the members of that community as well.”
 
In her time as director, Schembri has sat on the First Nations Committee, the Conference Committee and the Public Safety Committee. While the RCMP contract negotiations were the big issue for the latter committee over the last few years, the focus has changed now that the RCMP contracts have been signed. One of the biggest issues for the committee to look at is the issue of decriminalization of marijuana. “We had a half-day workshop looking at the issue,” she says. “There were people in law enforcement for it, and people against. There was someone from Washington state who said that when marijuana goes south across the border, cocaine and guns come north. Then the ex-solicitor general got up and gave a really strong argument for decriminalization. It was interesting.”
 
Schembri says another interesting debate happened around the idea of feral rabbits. “The Municipality of Delta says they had $350,000 in damage done to the grounds around municipal hall and the recreation centre. So they brought forward a motion that all rabbits sold in the province had to be spayed or neutered. But there was someone there who raised rabbits for meat. She asked what she would do if this were the case. ‘My rabbits aren’t cute, they’re delicious.’