Wow!!! Awesome people, awesome place. I was met by the LGMA Board for the pre-conference dinner where Matt (my BC host) and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the Board over some of the finest fresh Salmon I have ever tasted. The dinner coincided with the game seven of the NBA conference, unfortunately the Toronto Raptors lost that one by one point (more on that later) so the evening was one of mixed emotions for my new Canadian friends.
My first impression of BC/LGMA was very much of NZ on Steroids, everything bigger, brighter, richer and unfortunately, poorer as well. The venue for the conference was the Westin Bayshore located on the Waterfront/Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver surrounded by multi-million dollar apartments, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugatti’s in the carpark, classic Porsche in the lobby and street beggars on the corners and “homeless” camped up in the parks.
Just like Vancouver being a city of extremes, the LGMA face all the same issues of SOLGM and Local Government in NZ only on a bigger scale. I was fortunate that my exchange coincided with the 100yr anniversary of LGMA. A real testament to the membership and successive Boards that despite a century of change in Local Government that they have managed to keep their organisation relevant and applicable. BC at 4.6M, has a similar population to NZ but at 922K km² is over three times the size, with over twice as many Councils at 162 Municipalities. I think the really strong support network they provide is the basis for their longevity. The celebration included multiple 30-40 & 50 year service awards.
It was ironically affirming to meet so many really committed LGMA members dedicated to Local Government much like SOLGM, we are not alone !!! which was cool. My observation (not statistical proven) was that Local Government in BC is often an actual career path chosen and studied for at University as a career-path with many lifelong members. My observation in NZ is many of us find ourselves in Local Government through an often convoluted path from varied professional backgrounds. Local Government in NZ is not generally thought of as an exciting career path for students leaving High School. It is not until you become part of the Local Government/SOLGM family that you realise what a challenging, rewarding and exciting environment it is to work in. Like the opportunity to go and meet and work with your contemporary’s in Canada. More to follow.