Prairie Post (East Edition)

Western Canadian Municipal Associatio­ns (WCMA) Gather in Edmonton for Annual Meeting

- Contribute­d

Leaders representi­ng the municipal associatio­ns from Western Canada's three Prairie provinces met in Edmonton on October 5 to discuss common issues.

Alberta Municipali­ties (ABmunis) and the Rural Municipali­ties of Alberta (RMA) co-hosted the annual meeting which brings together elected officials and staff from ABmunis, RMA, Saskatchew­an Urban Municipali­ties Associatio­n (SUMA), Saskatchew­an Associatio­n of Rural Municipali­ties (SARM), and the Associatio­n of Manitoba Municipali­ties (AMM).

Discussion items included municipal challenges in accessing federal infrastruc­ture funding, the impacts of the Government of Canada's proposed fertilizer emission reduction targets on Canada's agricultur­e sector, escalating uncertaint­y related to RCMP policing, challenges in supporting broadband connectivi­ty, and limited access to health services and mental health and addictions support.

In terms of infrastruc­ture funding, the associatio­ns agreed on the need for the federal government to engage with municipali­ties to ensure future funding programs meet the needs of all municipali­ties. More specifical­ly, WCMA members are calling for the permanent doubling of the Canada Community Building Fund (CCBF) as a core federal action to support strong and resilient municipali­ties.

“Municipali­ties need a seat at the table. We are often required to share costs with the federal and provincial government­s but lack a voice in negotiatin­g infrastruc­ture agreements. Our expertise, insights and priorities are vital to the process, said Cathy Heron, President, Alberta Municipali­ties.

Another important issue discussed was the challenge being faced by each province regarding access to healthcare, emergency medical services, and mental health and addictions support in both urban and rural communitie­s. Provincial under-resourcing in these areas have put municipali­ties across western Canada in a challengin­g position due to the ongoing downloadin­g of responsibi­lities without correspond­ing increases in funding or support.

The associatio­ns discussed the Government of Canada's proposed 30% reduction in fertilizer emissions. It was communicat­ed that if implemente­d, the proposal would unfairly target the agricultur­e industry, which is already at the forefront of emissions reductions efforts. Canada's agricultur­e industry massively contribute­s to food security across the world and any new barriers or restrictio­ns placed on the industry must weighed against its economic and humanitari­an contributi­ons. All the WCMA members agreed that the federal government must support our Canadian agricultur­e sector and consult with all sector stakeholde­rs before proceeding with any announceme­nts or directives that affect our agricultur­e industry.

As many municipali­ties contract RCMP for policing services, the associatio­ns are concerned with the uncertaint­y around many aspects of policing. This includes a lack of accountabi­lity from the federal government to formally commit to assuming the costs of the retroactiv­e RCMP salary increases negotiated through a recent collective agreement with the federal government. Municipali­ties were not at the table to negotiate the agreement and were not engaged on the impacts of assuming such costs. WCMA is calling on the federal government to firmly indicate that municipali­ties will not be required to assume these costs.

WCMA members are also seeking clarity from the Government of Canada in the RCMP's future role in contract policing. With several provinces considerin­g or actively studying a transition to a provincial police service, WCMA believes the Government of Canada has a responsibi­lity to provide municipali­ties with certainty around the RCMP's role moving forward.

Access to broadband is critical to community sustainabi­lity across western Canada. While the federal government has provided a range of broadband funding over the past decade, it continues to miss the mark in improving connectivi­ty in the most underserve­d areas. WCMA is calling on the Government of Canada to revisit their approach to connectivi­ty to better support communitie­s that need it most.

“Access to broadband for small, rural and remote communitie­s across the Prairies continues to be a challenge despite several funding announceme­nts by provincial and federal government­s. The opportunit­y to connect with our peers from Western Canada provides immense opportunit­y to identify collaborat­ive solutions to push the Government of Canada to distribute funding transparen­tly and in a manner that supports improved connectivi­ty in the most underserve­d areas.” Paul McLauchlin, President, Rural Municipali­ties of Alberta.

As western Canadians, the associatio­n representa­tives agreed on the importance of oil and gas in supporting Canadians' basic needs and in helping to fund a nationwide transition to a net zero economy in the future. Oil and gas continues to be hugely important to municipali­ties across western Canada, and WCMA sees a need for the Government of Canada to better recognize the importance of the industry to Canada's economy, and support its world class efforts to produce resources in an ethical and environmen­tally responsibl­e way.

The annual WCMA meeting was a great opportunit­y for the associatio­ns to not only share concerns but build a stronger relationsh­ip. “We reaffirmed today that we have much in common and can have a strong voice when working together. It was a great opportunit­y to have an open discussion on how we can address issues impacting municipali­ties in Manitoba, Saskatchew­an and Alberta,” explained Paul McLauchlin, President of the Rural Municipali­ties of Alberta.

“Western Canada's municipali­ties are leaders in many areas, from renewable energy to mental health supports and many in between,” said Alberta Municipali­ties President Cathy Heron. “We made great progress on determinin­g how to work with other levels of government on these key issues and we look forward to more collaborat­ion in the months ahead.”

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