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