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BC mayors' caucus considering ways to become more democratic

A new caucus of British Columbia mayors is on its way to becoming more democratic, said Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

"It's not me leading it, it's not me putting things in place, that's not what it is," she said. "This is about mayors from across the province coming together looking at ways we can help each other, support each other."

The group had its first meeting in May in Penticton, then met this week during the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria.

There the mayors agreed to meet again in the spring in Prince George, where topics will include how to choose leaders and arrive at positions as a group.

"At that meeting then they'll have a discussion around who wants to go on the steering committee and all that other stuff," said Watts. "It's got to be democratic . . . The democracy piece has to be there."

Initially the steering committee members have sat at Watts' invitation, she acknowledged. Asked how they'll be chosen in the future, she said, "That's something we'll discuss, because I think it's really important that whether it's a steering committee or however it's laid out, that conversation has to be taken."

She added, "It's got to be very inclusive of everybody and give everybody an opportunity to have conversations about issues that touch us all."

The Globe and Mail reported Sept. 24 there has been suspicion that the caucus has been a way for Watts to build a power base outside of her municipality.

Watts has been at times touted as a possible leader of each of the BC Liberal and BC Conservative parties.

Asked about the suggestion, Watts said, "I don't understand what the vehicle to do what. I'm the mayor of the city of Surrey, I'm not running for anything in the next election. I'm doing the work that I need to do and it's important that we get together as mayors."

There was talk of forming a mayors' group for about three years, she said. "The only leadership piece I would suggest [I had] would be the fact of setting the meeting and pulling the steering committee," she said. "If it's been talked about for three years, somebody's got to say, 'Here, let's have a meeting.' That's how that came about."

The mayors' caucus will work in conjunction with the UBCM and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, she said. "It adds an advocating voice."

Besides Watts, the steering committee members have included the mayors of Victoria, Penticton, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Cranbrook, Fort St. John, Smithers, Kamloops, and Port Coquitlam.

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

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