Grand Forks’ mayor and three councillors made the trek down to Vancouver for the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference (FCM) from May 31 to June 3.
There were numerous information workshops to attend over the four-day conference, which hosted nearly 2,000 represented municipal officials from across the country, but a few of them stuck out for Mayor Brian Taylor.
“One of the key points had to be the infrastructure discussions and looking at the kind of interest from small and medium size communities,” he said.
Taylor said that it was evident through the discussions that small communities don’t have the tax base for proper infrastructure repairs.
“Everybody at this point is running some level of infrastructure deficit but that becomes more painful in small communities, where the tax base is low as opposed to say Vancouver or Victoria, (where they) have the ability to raise tax funds.”
Taylor said that the FCM provides an important platform for small municipalities to express these concerns in a collective voice.
While there were many other discussions and events at the FCM, Grand Forks’ Coun. Cher Wyers said that the infrastructure funding discussion dominated the conference.
“By taking part in the conference, delegates found out how their communities can access new federal infrastructure funding and help influence the design of federal programs so they meet local needs,” said Wyers in an email statement to the Gazette.
The benefit of hearing from other municipalities is that it informed local representatives of new technologies and innovations that could be beneficial to Grand Forks, said Wyers.
Another topic of interest for the mayor was the discussion on the upcoming medical marijuana regulations that will have an influence on municipalities.
“They (Health Canada) went into all the changes that are being contested by the medical marijuana users but in fact are being written to protect municipalities against the kind of problems they have experienced around the Lower Mainland; increased fires, diversion to biker gangs and organized crime,” said the mayor.
Coun. Patrick O’Doherty said the information on the new medical marijuana regulations, which will be implemented in the following months, was very informative.
“These (conferences) are full of good information that we can bring back to Grand Forks,” said O’Doherty.
The FCM also provided an opportunity to hear from national political leaders including Thomas Mulcair (NDP), Justin Trudeau (Liberals), Elizabeth May (Green) and minister James Moore (Conservatives) on where they stand on the priorities and concerns of cities and communities, said Wyers.
Coun. Michael Wirischagin also went to the conference in Vancouver.
“What I took away from FCM is the importance of interconnectedness between communities and between governments, provincially and federally,” he said. “Without us all working together, we will not be able to move forward in a fashion that makes sense, especially when everyone is fighting for the same dollar.”
As for an event that stuck out in Wirischagin’s mind, it was one of the receptions.
“A discussion that stood out would be the 35 and under reception that I attended. It focused on getting youth and younger people involved in politics and it was nice to see so many young politicians in attendance,” he said.