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NDP's Dix only leader to accept mayors' invitation

PRINCE GEORGE -- All four main provincial party leaders were invited to address the mayors' caucus meeting in Prince George this week, but just the New Democratic Party's Adrian Dix accepted.

"I'm really pleased to see Adrian Dix is coming to speak to the mayors," said Victoria mayor Dean Fortin. "I'm surprised that the others haven't. I'm not sure why, but I'm glad Mr. Dix is coming and recognizing municipal governments have an important role to play."

Some 70 mayors from throughout B.C. are at the two-day meeting in Prince George, including Surrey's Dianne Watts, Vancouver's Gregor Robertson and Port Coquitlam's Greg Moore.

Fortin, who has strong NDP connections, said many of his colleagues had noted which leaders had and hadn't accepted the invitation.

"All of them are very appreciative that (Dix is) coming, that he's going to speak to them and even more of interest willing to take questions from the floor," he said. "It will be interesting to see how he responds, but just the fact he wants to engage with mayors is promising."

A spokesperson for the mayors' caucus said the invitations were extended in January. While the meeting is April 29 and 30, the four party leaders participated in the televised debate the evening of the 29th leaving a small window for the trip to Prince George.

BC Liberal leader Christy Clark declined. "The premier travelled to Prince George in the first week of the campaign and her schedule has her in the Kootenays," said BC Liberal spokesperson Sam Oliphant in an email.

"She meets regularly with mayors from across the province, as does her cabinet," he said. "And her team of candidates features mayors from across BC ... who want to be part of growing the economy because they know it's good for their community."

The Green Party's Jane Sterk offered to participate via Skype or video conferencing, an offer the mayors' caucus rejected. BC Conservative leader John Cummins will spend the day travelling to Kamloops.

The Prince George gathering is the third time the sometimes controversial mayors' caucus has met. The agenda for the meeting included discussing ways to make the caucus democratic and how it would make decisions, Watts told The Tyee in September.

Until now the members of the caucus' steering committee have served at Watts' invitation.

Dix's presentation will be the only part of the meeting that is open to the media.

Updated, 12:30 p.m.: The BC Liberal Party released a letter from leader Christy Clark to the mayors' caucus. Following is the full text:

BC Liberal Party

April 30, 2013

Open letter to Mayors’ Caucus

As you gather in Prince George, I want to thank you and your municipal colleagues from around British Columbia.

The dedication and commitment that local government officials make to improving their communities strengthens us as a province.

I’m very proud of our team of candidates in this election. We have four current mayors and 10 councillors, along with six former mayors and eight former councillors, who are running to ensure B.C. stays on the right track. Along with five former school trustees, more than one-third of our team has direct local government experience.

They know the future of B.C. communities relies on us controlling spending and growing the economy. The perspective they bring from having been on the frontlines means the health and needs of local government remains in the forefront of all government does.

As a government, we've worked hard to create a strong relationship with municipalities; to create partnerships that build up communities.

Today’s BC Liberals believe that when you have a thriving private sector that creates well-paying, family-supporting jobs, parents are able to raise strong families, which in turn creates strong communities.

We believe that communities should benefit from the proceeds of gaming in this province, which is why one of my first acts as premier was to increase the level of support to communities through gaming grants.

Since 2001, we have provided $3 billion in new funding to local governments – combined with federal resources, which is more than $5 billion in new money to local governments in B.C.

We return 100 per cent of all traffic fine revenue. Including the payments to be made in 2013/14, we have returned more than $616 million in traffic fine revenues to communities since 2001, including more than $60 million in the last year.

Average annual small community grants under the NDP were just $21 million dollars. We doubled Small Community and regional district grants over four years – from $27 million in 2005 to $54 million in 2009. Since 2004, including payments to be made in 2013/14, $469 million has been provided to local governments.

At UBCM in 2001, we committed $30 million for 98 Community Recreation Program projects throughout the province that aim to make communities healthier and more active places in which to live.

But there is more we can do together.

In recognition of the critical role rural British Columbia plays in generating wealth and economic opportunity for the province, we will commence revenue sharing discussions with rural resource communities, especially those in Northwest B.C. to help them prepare for future growth.

We are continuing to make major investments in road infrastructure – around the province from four-laning the Trans-Canada to investments in the Lower Mainland.

As you finish your discussions on key policy issues and identify ‘next steps’ I want you to know that I and Bill Bennett, the minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, look forward to meeting with you and continuing our partnership.


Premier Christy Clark

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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