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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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FCM statement on the USMCA agreement

"The United States is Canada's largest trading partner and a close ally. News that Canada, the U.S and Mexico have reached a new trade agreement is a positive milestone to our shared prosperity. On behalf of FCM, I extend our appreciation to the Canadian negotiation team, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on their work to reach this important development.

"Canadian cities and communities play an important role building our cross border relationships. And on both sides of the border, municipalities require certainty and predictability in Canada-U.S. trade. Members of FCM's Big City Mayors Caucus travelled to Washington DC earlier this year to help make the case for a continued free trade agreement between Canada and the U.S. and to build on those prosperous relationships.

"As we review the details of this agreement, we will be listening to our members to ensure their concerns are shared with the federal government. Specifically, we will be looking to ensure procurement and dispute resolution mechanisms support the liveable communities we are working to build. We are also encouraged by the Prime Minister's confirmation that the federal government will examine compensation for affected sectors here in Canada to ensure workers and families are supported.

"On both sides of the border, the mutual benefits of a strong and fair economic partnership between Canada and the United States are clear. FCM will continue to advocate for the needs of Canadian cities and communities to ensure our continued prosperity under this new international trade agreement."

Vicki-May Hamm is President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Mayor of the City of Magog, QC. FCM is the national voice of local government, with nearly 2,000 members representing more than 90 per cent of Canada’s population.

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Building tomorrow’s Canada: Municipal leaders meet with federal, provincial and territorial infrastructure ministers

"For the third consecutive year, municipal leaders sat down today with Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial infrastructure ministers. This meeting reflects what Canadians want to see more of: orders of government working together to build tomorrow’s Canada.

“At last year’s meeting, we shaped the design and roll-out of the largest federal infrastructure investment Canadians have seen in a generation. Since then, provinces and territories have been finalizing bilateral agreements with Ottawa that empower local governments with tools to move projects forward. Today, we discussed what needs to happen next to ensure the transformational outcomes that Canadians expect in communities nationwide.

“Strong collaboration among orders of government is vital. Federal investments rely on provincial-territorial intake processes to get local projects moving, and we discussed engaging municipalities from the outset to get this right. With processes that work, we’ll be ready to deliver the next wave of public transit expansions. We’ll be ready to upgrade water, wastewater and road systems in communities of all sizes. We’ll be ready to scale up green innovation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt our communities to the effects of a changing climate.

“Important conversations are underway in this country about how orders of government work together. Today was a positive step forward as we grow our relationship to better serve Canadians, and I thank Minister Champagne and our provincial-territorial colleagues for a productive dialogue. We focused on how to make the most of commitments on the table, but we also discussed new opportunities that we can seize together.

“Local solutions are the key to many national, provincial and territorial challenges. As the order of government closest to people’s lives, municipalities bring an approach that is informed, collaborative and focused on real outcomes. Local governments will continue engaging regionally through our provincial and territorial municipal associations, and federally through FCM—to achieve the transformative progress Canadians deserve.”

Vicki-May Hamm is President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Mayor of the City of Magog, QC. FCM is the national voice of local government, with nearly 2,000 members representing more than 90 per cent of Canada’s population.

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FCM statement on rail safety announcement

“Rail safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods remain a key priority for Canada’s cities and communities. Since the disaster in Lac-Mégantic in 2013, the federal government has announced a number of new safety measures that respond directly to FCM’s call for urgent and concrete action. Today’s announcement that legacy DOT/TC-111 tank cars will be phased out is another important step towards improving the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail.

“FCM has worked closely with all levels of government, rail companies and all partners to improve rail safety. Key elements of today’s commitment directly reflect concerns raised by local governments across Canada. The accelerated phase-out of jacketed and non-jacketed DOT-111 legacy cars transporting crude oil will reduce the municipal safety risks of transporting crude oil by rail.

“Safe railway operations are just as important as tank car design for reducing derailment risk. As such, we will continue to look to the Federal Minister and Transport Canada officials to deliver reforms that improve the safety of Canada’s railways. Our efforts will focus on improving grade crossing safety and the proximity of railways to where people live and work. And we will continue to seek permanent information-sharing solutions and ensure front-line municipal workers are prepared in the event of a rail emergency.

“In order to see continued positive results, federal rail policies and regulations must include input from local governments. We will continue to actively engage Transport Canada to improve the safety of rail transport and ensure future safety recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are implemented with the support of Canada’s municipalities.”

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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Statement from Mayor Don Iveson, Chair of FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus

“To see a Canadian province invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to change the size of a city council, in the middle of an election campaign, is unprecedented. On behalf of FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus, I am offering full support to the City of Toronto’s efforts to protect local democracy.

“Canadians are now stuck in a Constitutional debate, when we have not even tested the limits of how governments can work together within the Constitution. The levers to modernize the relationship already exist.

“Certainly, there is nothing unconstitutional about sitting down together to talk about solving problems, funding cities mandates directly, and creating a forum where municipal governments address our nation’s challenges with their provincial and federal counterparts as equals. It just takes political will from every order of government.

“Mayors are pragmatists. Every day, municipal governments are delivering city-based solutions to national challenges, from economic productivity to public safety. And increasingly, Canadians expect us to share the lead on emerging challenges—from stemming the opioid crisis, to building innovative economies, to settling new Canadians in our communities. 

“It is time for a mature, modern conversation about how we work together to make life better for Canadians. Canada’s mayors are ready.”

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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FCM welcomes Canadian poverty reduction strategy

 "Tackling poverty in Canada requires coordination among all levels of government, starting with municipalities. Today's release of a federal poverty reduction strategy is a meaningful response to FCM recommendations, and is a positive step toward tackling the poverty that affects Canadians in every city and town across the country. 

"Every single day, municipal leaders see how poverty prevents people and communities from achieving their full potential. From their place on the front lines, local governments are also making the most of the tools available to respond. They are bringing diverse actors together to tailor federal and provincial initiatives to local realities, and many are leading the way with comprehensive local poverty reduction plans of their own.

"Opportunity for All aligns with FCM's recommendations to boost access to the things people need to thrive - from affordable housing, childcare and transit to robust income supports. Our top priority is an effective roll-out of the National Housing Strategy engaging all orders of government. As well, strengthening data collection and reducing data gaps, if this engages local governments and service providers, will enable municipalities to design, scale up and track local solutions with sharper evidenced-driven policies and programs.

"The experience of living in poverty varies across the country, and so do the right solutions. While Canadians see and feel poverty's effects most at the local level, other orders of government manage investment and policy levers that are vital to lasting solutions. So we especially welcome today's fresh recognition that tackling poverty requires coordinated action across orders of government, grounded in municipal expertise.

"FCM was pleased to participate in this process through our CEO, Brock Carlton, who served on the Ministerial Advisory Committee that informed Opportunity for All. To succeed, any national poverty reduction strategy will need to continue engaging the local order of government every step of the way. FCM and our municipal members look forward to working in partnership to build a Canada where everyone has the opportunity to thrive."

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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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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Rural challenges are national opportunities

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) released a report today that details the important contribution rural municipalities make and outlines the unique challenges they face. The comprehensive report titled Rural Challenges, national opportunity - Shaping the future of rural Canada includes recommendations encouraging the federal government to tackle these challenges head-on and raise Canadians' quality of life nationwide. 

"When it comes to providing the infrastructure necessary to support a strong economy and high quality of life, rural governments are faced with two key problems-the challenge of serving dispersed communities and the limits of their fiscal and administrative capacity," said FCM's Rural Forum Chair, Ray Orb. 

Today's report provides recommendations to address the realities rural municipalities face. Key recommendations of this report include:

  • Applying a 'rural lens' to all federal policies and programs aimed at empowering smaller communities to better support local needs.
  • Designing future rural infrastructure programs that provide long-term predictable funding with flexibility to account for rural realities.
  • Committing long-term predictable resources to expanding broadband internet access in rural, northern and remote communities.

"This report tells the story of the significant contribution rural municipalities make to the nation's economy, but it also highlights the fiscal squeeze they face due to low population densities and the exodus of younger generations," added Orb. "But as a key driver of economic growth, we know that investing in rural Canada means building a better country for everyone."

FCM is leading the way in advocating for new tools that empower rural communities to build tomorrow's Canada and has secured unprecedented federal investment in recent years.

The full report is available here.

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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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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Infrastructure: Municipalities at the heart of nation-building

Jenny Gerbasi, President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

This month, Canadians are getting a closer look at how new federal infrastructure investments will roll out across the country over the coming decade. As Ottawa continues to sign agreements with provinces and territories, what I see etched throughout is a refreshing recognition-of municipalities' essential role in building Canada's future.

The Investing in Canada plan can transform this country with economic growth, climate progress and a higher quality of life. But turning this opportunity into outcomes means getting the design and delivery right. Canadians want their governments to squeeze every drop of value from every new infrastructure dollar, and that's where local governments excel.

Local governments deliver national outcomes

Municipalities are responsible for 60 per cent of Canada's public infrastructure and an expanding suite of services. As the governments closest to daily life, residents hold us responsible for delivering outcomes, from quality roads to clean water. And because we control just 10 cents of each tax dollar, cost-effectiveness has become our mantra.

Local governments also have unique expertise. We understand local needs and how to meet them in ways that foster more livable, competitive communities. Designing transportation infrastructure, for instance, is also an exercise in long-term planning for effective land use and neighbourhood development. And the local solutions we deliver have national impact.

For instance, a well-planned transit expansion eases traffic congestion, shortens local commutes, and strengthens communities. But it also boosts national productivity and reduces national greenhouse gas emissions-durable value on top of the direct jobs and growth these infrastructure projects generate as well. In short, when municipalities across Canada have the right tools, local progress transforms our country's bottom lines.

Investing in Canada: tools for local governments

That local capacity to deliver national impact is why municipalities find themselves at the heart of a historically ambitious nation-building plan. From early days, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was deeply engaged in shaping Investing in Canada.

But we've always understood that the practical tools available to municipalities would depend on federal negotiations with each province and territory. And the agreements that are emerging take significant steps toward empowering municipalities to drive economic and quality-of-life outcomes nationwide.

First, governments are recognizing that local solutions are key to tackling national challenges.

Better roads and transit boost national productivity. Modern, accessible recreation infrastructure attracts and supports the new talent our economy needs to grow. Scaling up local green infrastructure helps achieve national climate goals. The municipalities that influence half of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are already driving some of Canada's most innovative solutions-from green fleets to low-emission waste management.

Recognizing this, Canada's new infrastructure agreements build in commitments to support a "fair balance" of municipal and provincial projects. That's ground-breaking. The transit expansion plan goes even further: most of this $20 billion investment will be allocated directly to municipalities with transit systems, based on a predictable funding formula.

Second, governments are addressing local fiscal barriers to building tomorrow's Canada.

The value that municipalities bring to the nation-building table is not money but expertise-from needs assessment through design and delivery. They have never had the fiscal flexibility to move projects forward on the transformational scale Canadians deserve.

This is why FCM has advocated a new cost-sharing formula: 40% federal, 40% provincial, 20% municipal. Ottawa has now accepted that benchmark, while provinces so far are committing to 33 per cent. Seeing other orders of governments cover nearly three-quarters of local costs is a meaningful recognition that Canada's future depends on moving local projects forward.

Third, governments are recognizing that nation-building includes communities of all sizes.

For two years, FCM has offered extensive advice on fine-tuning infrastructure programs to maximize outcomes. Another key area where we see our advice being adopted is in recognizing the financial and administrative realities of rural, northern and remote communities.

The federal government has boosted its cost-share to 50 per cent for projects in rural Canada-and to 60 per cent where populations fall under 5,000. Bilateral agreements are committing to streamline project administration. Steps like these empower rural and northern communities to deliver better roads, broadband, wastewater treatment and more.

Next steps are crucial

FCM has been an unrelenting advocate for local governments and the residents we serve. And while Canada's new infrastructure agreements are encouraging, much work remains to be done to drive to the outcomes Canadians deserve.

For instance, governments will be challenged to bring life to the ground-breaking "fair balance" commitment to local projects. What mechanisms will ensure project selection transparently honours that intent? On so many outstanding issues, local governments should continue to be engaged-not as outsiders looking in, but as the heart of the nation-building process.

Then we'll be ready to do what we do best: design and deliver projects to transform our communities and our country for generations to come.

Jenny Gerbasi is Deputy Mayor of Winnipeg and President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the national voice of municipal government, with nearly 2,000 members representing 90 per cent of Canadians.


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