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Bill Bennett promotes provincial unity, constructive relationships in UBCM address

Minister of Community and Rural Development Bill Bennett emphasized the importance of local politicians acting as community “heroes” in his address to the Union of BC Municipalities today.

“Almost everyone that’s here is making a difference in their community, and that’s why you do what you do. Many of you are full time politicians, whether you get paid to be full time politicians or not many of you are working full time…” he told the crowd.

“The way I look at it is your taxpayers are invested in your communities. They’re invested through their homes and their businesses and their volunteer work, and they’re invested in all the decisions you make. Your decisions have impact directly on their lives.”

Minister Bennett apologized to politicians who didn’t receive funding for projects in their communities this year, but assured them that money spent anywhere in British Columbia is an investment for citizens across the province.

“In terms of opportunity, quality of life, there is only one British Columbia,” he said.

“There is only one BC. There is only one economy of British Columbia… the taxpayer in Creston and Cranbrook and Penticton is the same as the taxpayer living in a condo overlooking Robson Street. And what we invest in water, and sewage, and recreation infrastructure, we’re investing in Valemont, as well as Victoria.”

He reminded members of the over $4 billion in investments the province has made over the past 7 years, such as additions to colleges, seven new universities, “magnificent” highway infrastructure, and new information centers.

He also emphasized the importance of a constructive relationship with the federal government.

“We’ve had a constructive relationship with the two different political parties who have been in power since we were elected in 2001… you get a lot more for your constituents when you have that constructive relationship. It’s true of the relationship between the relationship between the UBCM and the province, and it’s certainly true between the province and the federal government,” he said.

Bennett concluded by encouraging a similar relationship with him and his staff.

“I want you folks and local governments to consider me and my staff a friend, an advisor… “

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

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