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Rural communities are shaping Canada’s future

Rural priorities led today's agenda at the biggest-ever national conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). More than 2,000 municipal leaders are in the nation's capital this week to discuss municipalities' emerging role in shaping Canada's future.

"We're gathering here as Canadians get ready to celebrate 150 years of confederation. But today we're also showing how rural communities are already hard at work shaping the next 150," said FCM President Clark Somerville, himself a rural councillor in Ontario's Halton Region

Today's conference highlights included an interactive President's Rural Plenary featuring five panellists representing towns, villages, counties and regional municipalities across Canada:

  • Diana Rogerson, Councillor, Faro, Yukon
  • Martin Harder, Mayor, Winkler, Manitoba
  • J. Murray Jones, Councillor, Peterborough County, Ontario  
  • Jean Fortin, Maire, Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec
  • Mike Savage, Mayor, Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia

Responding to questions from delegates and FCM's president, panellists shared some of their most innovative local solutions to contemporary challenges-including stalled growth, youth-outmigration, aging populations, employer losses and inadequate communications links. Today's exchanges will inform an upcoming FCM report on the future of rural Canada.

"Our local challenges are also national challenges, and rural communities are responding with resilience and innovation. But we can't do this alone. That's why we're so creative about building partnerships-with stakeholders, other communities and other governments," said Somerville.

As the national voice of local government, FCM is successfully advocating for rural priorities with the federal government. For instance, Budget 2017 confirmed a $2 billion fund dedicated to the infrastructure priorities of rural, remote and northern communities. FCM played a key role in securing this unprecedented investment, and continues to press for federal programs and policies that align with rural realities.

"Our message to the federal government is that a thriving Canada needs a thriving rural Canada. From agriculture to manufacturing to tourism, our communities are vital economic players. Community-building is nation-building, today we're showcasing how nation-building plays out in communities of all sizes," said Somerville.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national voice of local government, with nearly 2,000 member cities and communities representing more than 90 per cent of Canadians

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High-speed broadband is essential for rural and northern Canada

The following op-ed was published in The Hill Times on May 2, 2016.

By Raymond Louie, President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Acting Mayor of Vancouver
Ray Orb, Chair of FCM's Rural Forum & President of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM)

A long overdue conversation has begun in Canada about how to ensure large sections of our country are no longer cut off from an essential service which is taken for granted by so many others — access to high-speed Internet. For too long now, many people in rural, remote, and northern communities have either been forced to live with inadequate and spotty online services, or in many cases, no high-speed Internet at all. In fact, Canada's current broadband coverage standards for upload and download speeds fall well behind many industrialized nations.

In 2016, building a nationwide information superhighway is as important to Canada's future as building the transcontinental railroad was over 130 years ago. Simply put, it's hard to live without. Imagine a small business owner trying to compete in today's global economy without high-speed Internet. Or a patient waiting for crucial medical test results that are delayed because those results are not available online. Or a young person trying to improve their job skills without access to an online course. 

But in fact, too many Canadians do live without it. A recent report published by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) found that only a fraction of people and businesses in rural and remote communities have access to the upload and download speeds that are almost universally available in our urban centres. For example, almost 100 per cent of people in urban areas have access to download speeds of between 16-25 Megabytes per second (Mbps), compared to only 29 per cent of Canadians in rural communities. That's a significant gap and it needs to be closed.

Not only are a large section of our fellow Canadians being cut off from vital services, they are also being prevented from fully participating in Canadian society and contributing the ideas and the innovations that make our country great. Rural Canada makes up 30 per cent of the country's population and produces one-third of our economic output.  It is time to get Internet service in rural and northern Canada moving at full speed.

The good news is that this conversation is shifting from a debate over whether broadband access is an essential service to how we can work together as a nation to get everyone connected.

The head of the CRTC Jean-Pierre Blais recently talked about the importance of developing a coherent national Internet deployment strategy in Canada. As municipal leaders, we entirely agree with that sentiment, as well as the insistence that it will take a collective effort from all quarters of society including the CRTC, governments, and private industry to make it happen. 

The CRTC is holding hearings right now to better understand broadband connectivity across Canada. FCM appeared there April 15 to lay out the case that high-speed broadband access must be considered an essential service. This means putting in place new funding mechanisms that will support universal access in areas not served through private investments or targeted government funding programs. 

But recognizing high-speed broadband as a basic service is only part of the solution. The CRTC must also ensure the system adapts to ever-changing technological advancements by regularly updating Canada's broadband speed targets. Otherwise we run the risk of drawing up plans for the best system with the fastest upload and download standards today only to see that system quickly become inadequate to people's needs tomorrow.

Canada also needs to ensure our national system includes backup connections for parts of the country where Internet outages can leave people without service for days or even weeks. For example, remote regions where repairing a broken cable is a lengthy and complicated affair, or in the north where there is simply no backup for satellite interruptions. 

Making sure high-speed service is available to everyone will require significant public and private investment. We will all need to work together to build this network. That is why FCM welcomed the federal government's commitment in the recent budget to spend an additional $500-million over the next five years to expand broadband services to rural and remote communities. These investments have the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of Canadians in underserved areas and should be taken into account by the CRTC as it studies additional mechanisms to fund the roll-out of universal broadband access.

Canadians have always been willing to work together to make sure that everyone enjoys the quality of life we all expect and deserve. Today that means pulling together as governments, businesses, and consumers to make sure that no matter where we live, a strong economy and connected, vibrant hometowns are always just a click away.

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CRTC broadband decision: Big win for rural and northern communities

FCM President Clark Somerville issued the following statement in response to today's decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in the Review of Basic Telecommunications Services.

Broadband is now fundamental to modern life and commerce. The CRTC recognized this today in its Decision adopting a "universal service objective" mandating universal access to reliable broadband — in communities of all sizes — through both fixed and mobile wireless networks.

The CRTC launched its sweeping review of basic telecommunications services in April 2015. FCM's final submission to that process raised the alarm over the "broadband gap" that constrains so many northern and rural communities. Some struggle with bandwidth and network capacity that cannot meet user demands. Others have no broadband coverage at all.

For these communities, today's decision can be transformative. Expanding broadband access will improve local quality of life, help stem youth out-migration and support economic growth — by boosting productivity, supporting innovation and improving market access. The CRTC is responding to FCM's call by adopting a universal speed target of 50 mbps for downloads and 10 mbps for uploads, backed by a new long-term funding mechanism.

This decision comes less than a week after the federal government launched its Connect to Innovate program. First announced in Budget 2016, this five-year $500-million commitment will accelerate broadband upgrades in high-cost rural areas. This plan responds to many of FCM's recommendations and we will keep working with our federal partners to confirm its details.

Even with this new federal support, however, market forces alone will not close the broadband gap for many remote and northern communities. FCM will be examining the CRTC's new funding mechanism to ensure it complements Connect to Innnovate funding to best support the communities that need it most. The next step will be to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan and timeline to make universal broadband access a reality for Canadians. FCM is eager to work with all orders of government to make that happen.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national voice of municipal government, with 2,000 members representing 90 per cent of the Canadian population.

Information: Michael FitzPatrick, Media Relations: mfitzpatrick@fcm.ca or 613 907 6346

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Mayors meet Prime Minister on housing and transit

In a substantive meeting this morning, Canada's big-city mayors urged the Prime Minister to use his government's next budget to launch a new era of public transit and to tackle Canada's housing affordability crisis head-on. 

"This government clearly appreciates that we can't build livable, globally-competitive cities on top of a housing crisis," said Don Iveson, Mayor of Edmonton and chair of FCM's Big-City Mayors' Caucus (BCMC). "Our discussion with the Prime Minister today focused on the budget - as really a once-in-a-generation opportunity both to expand transit and to fix the housing crisis."

A million and a half Canadian families cannot find decent housing they can afford. One in five renters spends more than half their income on shelter. And vulnerable Canadians are at risk as long-standing federal operating agreements for Canada's 600,000 social housing homes progressively expire. The mayors are urging the federal government to invest $12.6 billion in housing solutions over eight years, directing money already earmarked for the Social Infrastructure Fund. 

In budget recommendations submitted on Monday, the mayors laid out a plan to protect existing social housing, build new affordable housing and kick-start rental housing markets. They also outlined the funding mechanisms that will ensure major transit expansions move forward - shortening commutes, easing gridlock, reducing emissions and boosting productivity.

"This government put unprecedented money on the table for transit, green and social infrastructure. And with the right mechanisms in place, cities are ready to turn transit and green investment into big outcomes for Canadians. But now we also need a clear and bold federal decision to put those Social Infrastructure funds into housing," said Iveson.

Today's BCMC agenda also includes a panel discussion with six housing stakeholder organizations from across Canada, as well as discussion on the fentanyl public health crisis. Later, the mayors will review their full Budget 2017 recommendations with senior Infrastructure Canada officials and Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Intergovernmental Affairs).

"Canada's big cities are hubs of innovation, and our local solutions drive progress on national challenges. More than ever, city-building is nation-building, and it's heartening to see our Prime Minister share that broad vision," said Iveson.


The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is the national voice of Canada's local order of government, with nearly 2,000 members representing 91 per cent of the population. Its Big-City Mayors' Caucus brings together 22 of Canada's largest cities.

For more information

Michael FitzPatrick, FCM Media Relations: mfitzpatrick@fcm.ca  or 613 907 6346


Seizing the moment: FCM's Budget 2017 recommendations

Canada's Housing OpportunityFCM's national housing strategy recommendations

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Statement by Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chair of Big City Mayors’ Caucus’ Task Force on the Opioid Crisis on the meeting of the FPT Health Ministers

"The opioid overdose crisis is having a devastating impact on Canadian families and communities, with thousands of lives lost to preventable causes. It's also taking a heavy toll on our cities' first responders, front-line workers and community volunteers, who are working around the clock to save lives.  

"Canada's cities are the front lines of the overdose crisis, where the death toll is spiking due to the gaps in addictions treatment and care. Convening a ministers' meeting without bringing mayors to the table is another missed opportunity to bring all orders of government together. We need to join forces to effectively tackle this crisis, and identify specific actions to connect people to the health services and supportive housing they need to end this tragic epidemic.

"Despite some progress on opening harm reduction services and improving data and reporting, this overdose crisis is escalating. We've seen almost no national progress to improve access to treatment, minimal awareness and education campaigns, and there are no established timelines or evidence-based targets to end opioid overdoses and deaths, as recommended by the Mayors' Task Force earlier this year.

"We urgently need a co-ordinated, pan-Canadian response led by the federal government - that sets clear targets and timelines for solving the overdose crisis, sharing information, and coordinating action across all orders of government. Canada must build and track evidence-based solutions and ensure that federal dollars urgently save lives through the Four Pillars - treatment, education, harm reduction and enforcement."  

The Mayors' Task Force on the Opioid Crisis convenes mayors of 13 cities: Vancouver, Surrey, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, London, Kitchener, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The Task Force was launched on February 3, 2017, by the Big-City Mayors' Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Read the full report here

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National housing strategy: A breakthrough for affordable housing

"The national housing strategy released this afternoon is a breakthrough for cities and communities from coast to coast to coast. This is the kind of federal leadership that local governments have been seeking for more than 20 years.

"Municipal leaders work on the frontlines of Canada's housing crisis. We see its effects etched into the faces of parents who must choose between making rent and feeding the kids. We see it as local businesses struggle to attract talented workers. And FCM led an intensive campaign to shape a national housing strategy that will tackle this crisis at its roots.

"The federal government took our advice to focus on the fundamentals. Replacing expiring social housing rent subsidies is a breakthrough for thousands of families who fear losing their homes as long-term operating agreements wind down. Investing to repair and renew that social housing will keep more people in their homes and help secure tomorrow's supply. And getting back to investing in affordable housing construction is the breakthrough we needed to start tackling the supply crunch.

"FCM will continue to examine the national housing strategy in the coming days, and we'll naturally have outstanding issues and questions. For instance, it's not yet clear how this strategy will leverage municipal expertise in decision-making on housing development to match local needs with the best possible solutions.

"But at the end of the day, this strategy is a breakthrough for 1.7 million families who can't find a decent home they can afford. It's a breakthrough for mayors working to build more livable, inclusive, competitive cities and communities across Canada. And we look forward to working with all orders of government to unlock the incredible potential that this strategy represents.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is the national voice of municipal government, with 2,000 members representing 90 per cent of the Canadian population.

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FCM welcomes National Housing Co-Investment Fund announcement

"The launch of the National Housing Strategy (NHS) last fall was a breakthrough, and today's announcement brings its largest component to life. This significant investment puts tools directly in the capable hands of local governments and affordable housing providers.

"These investments are about strengthening our federal-municipal partnership to build a future for Canada where 1.7 million households aren't struggling to find a decent home.  Turning these investments into real outcomes will require sustained collaboration among all partners. With the right tools, local expertise stands ready to repair, retrofit and grow Canada's affordable housing supply. 

"Municipalities are already innovating to support high-impact housing projects — with land contributions, expedited approvals, zoning changes and more. Engaging municipal expertise in the continued design of this fund will be critical to its ability to prioritize high-impact housing projects that reflect local needs. FCM expects deepened engagement and stands ready to work with the federal government to help get the details right.  

"Affordable housing is the bedrock of the livable, inclusive communities we want to build. That's why FCM has worked hard to secure and shape the National Housing Strategy. We commend Minister Duclos for his leadership, and the federal government for their meaningful reengagement in affordable housing."

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national voice of municipal governments, with nearly 2,000 members representing more than 90 per cent of the Canadian population. 

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FCM statement on the passage of the Cannabis Act

"The passage of C-45 today marks a significant step towards the legalization of non-medical cannabis in Canada. All orders of government must now concentrate their efforts to ensure this transition occurs safely and effectively. Municipal governments remain fully committed to doing our part, with FCM providing continued support.

"With recreational cannabis soon to be sold and consumed in our communities, local governments are on the front lines of keeping Canadians safe and well-served. Legalization will impact as many as 17 municipal departments and impose significant new costs. And municipalities have been working hard to upgrade by-laws, processes and capacity to get ready.

"The federal government has engaged municipalities and recognized our key role in a successful transition to legalized cannabis. As a result of our discussions, our federal partner released a significant portion of its own excise tax revenues, with the clear intent that it be used to offset municipal costs. However, many of our members are still seeking clarity on how their provincial and territorial governments will flow those revenues to local governments.

"Among the most notable implications of legalization are costs to our police services through training, equipment and ongoing administration. We're also seeking more clarity about the federal government's commitment of $81 million to help address local law enforcement costs- specifically, how municipalities can access this funding and when it will become available.

"Municipalities need to know that financial tools will be in place to cover all costs associated with this federal initiative. At the same time, local governments will continue seeing full engagement with other orders of government and continuing their own preparations as we inch closer towards legalization."

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is the national voice of municipal governments, with nearly 2,000 members representing more than 90 per cent of the Canadian population.

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Canada’s municipalities establish unified response to Syrian Refugee Crisis

Ottawa - Municipal leaders across Canada are pressing forward with their unified response to the humanitarian crisis facing Syria. Today the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) released details on the membership of the Task Force on Syrian Refugee Resettlement.

Membership on the Task Force reflects the diversity of the municipal sector. Cities that are traditional immigration hubs such as Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, Ottawa and Halifax will be represented.  The Task Force will also include smaller municipalities, such as the City of St. Albert, AB, and the Town of Aurora, ON; both equally committed to assist in ways that are commensurate with their local realities.

FCM President Raymond Louie and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage will co-chair the Task Force."The scale of the crisis in Syria compels us all to respond in a way that is generous and compassionate, but to have a real impact our efforts must also be effective. This Task Force will be critical to our success," said president Raymond Louie.

The Task Force was launched earlier this month at FCM's board meeting in Fredericton when board members unanimously passed an Emergency Recommendation to coordinate the efforts of cities and communities across the country to amplify the effectiveness of local initiatives already underway. The Task Force will lead a Canada-wide municipal response to the Syrian refugee crisis to complement federal and provincial efforts. The Task Force will allow municipalities to share information and best practices.  It will also provide an efficient means of coordinating with provincial, territorial and federal counterparts to meet immediate and urgent resettlement targets.

Canada's cities and communities were quick to act on the obligation facing all orders of government to offer solutions to this crisis situation.

  • The City of London is working with local groups to raise awareness and funds to sponsor families from Syria to settle in the city.
  • The City of Vancouver held a public forum to discuss actions the public can take to address the emergency situation.
  • The City of Halifax adopted a motion assuring Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that the city will provide a welcoming environment for refugees.
  • The City of Montréal adopted a declaration recognizing the urgency of the situation and stating its intent to work with all stakeholders on refugee resettlement.

"Municipalities across Canada have always been crucial to the success of Canada's efforts to resettle refugees in our country. The Task Force is a signal to other orders of government that our communities are prepared to be part of the solution to this humanitarian disaster," says Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

The Task Force will meet for the first time next week to begin the process of coordinating the local government response to this crisis.

FCM is the national voice of municipal government. In leading the municipal movement, FCM works to align federal and local priorities, recognizing that strong hometowns make for a strong Canada.

FCM's Task Force on Syrian Refugee Resettlement

Raymond Louie, FCM President
Mike Savage, Mayor, City of Halifax
City of Saskatoon, SK
City of London, ON
City of Montréal, QC
City of Hamilton, ON
City of Edmonton, AB
City of Vancouver, BC
City of St. Albert, AB
Town of Aurora, ON
City of Halifax, NS
City of Toronto, ON
City of Kitchener, ON
City of Nelson, BC
City of Ottawa, ON

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FCM releases how-to guide to welcoming refugees - Welcoming Communities builds on municipal experience with Syrian newcomers

A year after Canada began opening its arms to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has released Welcoming Communities: A Toolkit for Municipal Governments. The practical guide builds on lessons learned by over 300 municipalities that have helped to welcome the newcomers

"I am proud of how Canadian municipalities stepped up and embraced our new Canadian family members," said FCM President Clark Somerville. "Now we've turned some of that experience into a practical guide to becoming truly welcoming communities for refugees.

"In September 2015, FCM launched a Task Force on Refugee Resettlement to share information across the country, to coordinate with federal, provincial and territorial governments, and to support frontline organziations and neighbourhood groups that led strong local responses. Welcoming Communities surveys the complex challenge of welcoming many refugees in a short period of time-focussing on priorities such as finding affordable housing, providing language and cultural supports, and building community connections.

"Once again, we are seeing how  municipal action helps meet national challenges," added Somerville, "Of course, as emergency federal support winds down now in 'Month 13', we'll need to help these refugees face new challenges, like finding affordable longer-term housing.

"A housing crisis continues to play out in communities across Canada, with a deepening shortage of affordable housing options. FCM has recommended a comprehensive response, calling for significant funding for housing solutions in Budget 2017.

Since November 2015, 35,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada. FCM and its members recognize the cultural, social and economic value that newcomers contribute to our communities, and they will continue to be part of a solution to this tragic situation.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national voice of municipal government, with 2,000 members representing 90 per cent of the Canadian population.


Michael FitzPatrick, Media Relations: mfitzpatrick@fcm.ca or 613 907 6346

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