Port Alberni city councillor Helen Poon has been elected as a director-at-large by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
UBCM’s annual week-long convention brings elected officials from municipalities across British Columbia together, offering opportunities to meet with various provincial ministers, lobby for issues important to delegates’ respective communities, listen to speakers and attend workshops. Eight people ran for five director-at-large seats, including four from the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC).
During Poon’s campaign speech she said she is in a unique position to serve as UBCM director because she has both urban and rural experience. “I was born and raised in Vancouver, and trained as a lawyer in England,” Poon said. “More recently, I have been spending much of my time in Port Alberni.
“I have lived, been educated, worked and invested in both urban and rural municipalities. I feel that I am in a unique position to bridge the gap between rural and urban municipalities,” she added.
“UBCM has a big divide between rural vs. urban issues. I get perspective on issues the cities aren’t going to agree on that rural communities think are very important, and vice versa,” she said in an interview following her election.
“I tried to express my thoughts on the current state of the province and how other municipalities can unite and work on problems we all share. My reason for running as a director was to do what I do best: bring people together. It doesn’t have to do with Port Alberni specifically but it’s nice to have a Port Alberni voice at the table.”
The directorship will mean an extra 10-12 days’ commitment per year plus some additional travel on top of Poon’s role as one of Port Alberni’s city councillors.
Poon is one of four representatives from Vancouver Island elected to the UBCM: District of Sooke mayor Maya Tait was acclaimed president of the UBCM at this year’s annual convention after serving last year as first vice-president. Nanaimo city councillor Ben Geselbracht was also elected as a director-at-large, as was Claire Moglove of Campbell River.
A total of 13 positions are elected to the UBCM executive, including president, first vice-president and five directors. As directors, they will all be responsible for lobbying the provincial government to act on UBCM resolutions.
This is Poon’s second year at the UBCM. Last year, prior to being elected in Port Alberni, Poon attended a reception at the convention in Whistler at her own expense to see what it was all about. “It was a brief visit but it allowed me to meet a number of elected officials last year. That experience allowed me to get a head start (in 2019),” she said.
Poon has also taken two personal road trips around B.C. to visit different municipalities, meet their elected officials and see how they are tackling issues in their communities. “I like that networking aspect. I’m committed to learn more on how to do my work as a councillor well.”
Next year’s UBCM convention will take place in Victoria from Sept. 21-25.
— With files from Nicholas Pescod, Nanaimo News Bulletin