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Federation of Canadian Municipalities Report

It is not cheap to send me or any of us on Council to the annual FCM conference. As such, I always try to provide a report on what I did while there.

Below is a brief but still longish overview of what I attended while at the conference. As always, the views and opinions expressed are mine alone and do not speak for Council or the Town of Morinville.

Thursday – May 30

The first day of the conference is usually low key as the event starts officially on Friday.

– Attended the regional meetings for the Prairies and Territories

– Took a study tour with Councillor Giffen of Quebec City’s waste-to-energy facility where they take all streams of solid waste and incinerate it. St. Albert is taking on a pilot project of this nature and we have attended their info session. So this was a valuable tour, particularly given my role as Chair of Roseridge.

On the same tour, I also had a session on the Biomethanation plant being built in Quebec City. Changes by 2022 there will prohibit food waste going to landfill or incineration. Garbage and compost will go in coloured bags but into the same bin and sorted by colour. It will be converted to fertilizer and energy. They are expecting to turn a profit almost out of the gate. It will be the province’s largest bio-gas plant.

Thursday – May 30 – after conference

– Attended supper with Council. Typically on our first night at FCM, Council will go out for dinner. It is always an enjoyable event and one of the few decent meals we get during a conference of continental breakfasts, platter lunches and dinners that consist largely of meat on sticks at hospitality rooms.

– After dinner, some of us took a walk to old town Quebec for a look around.

Friday – May 31

– Attended Trade Show and had conversations with several companies and organizations, including a manufacturer of cutouts to reduce speed, innovative playground equipment, and an initial look at Waste to Energy technology.

One particular highlight is the extended producer responsibility Nespresso has in place and is trying to get in place. Their coffee pods are all aluminum and they are working on a green bag program where the pods would go in recycling municipally and get sent back tot he company by the recycling depots. The aluminum is repurposed into products, including vegetable peelers and bike parts.

– Attended political keynote from Prime Minister Trudeau. Most of the political leaders this time around were purely focused on the upcoming election. I always try to go to them all and listen to what they have to say and how it relates to Morinville. Mr. Trudeau did not take questions.

– Attended with Councillor Hall, a study tour of two distinctly different libraries, both operated by non-profits and funded by the municipality. While the session was to be about efficiency, it spoke little to it. Although enjoyable, I do not feel I got the greatest value from this session that I’d hoped to. However, seeing how a non-profit model could work, was a value in itself.

– Attended the political keynote from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Similar in tone to Trudeau’s presentation, although Mr. Scheer fielded questions from a moderator.

– Attended a workshop on managing snow and water levels for safer communities with Councillor Giffen. The city of Vaughan, Ontario explained how they use a computer algorithm of weather reports, municipal rules for removal, and past performance data to know exactly when to apply and reapply ice treatment. Although it takes some time and money to set up – they are seeing greater efficiency and cost reductions while making the municipality safer in winter. Although the session was pretty technical, I think there could be some merit into looking into this further.

Friday – May 31 – post conference

– Attended Mayor’s welcome reception in the evening to network with other Councillors. Each year, the host city’s Mayor holds a gathering where Councillors from across the country can get together after the first full day of the conference. The entertainment was quite unusual, and the food was an interesting variety of Quebec foods.

– Also took some free time later in the later evening to tour a bit of Old Town Quebec City and network some more. Councillor Giffen and I hit a few pubs in old town Quebec. Although expenses are covered at the conference, the purchase of alcohol is purely out of our pocket. We had some interesting conversations with elected officials and others about oil, politics, and other issues.

Saturday – June 1

– Attended the Resolutions Plenary – arguably one of the most important parts of the conference. It is here where Canada’s elected officials vote on what issues the FCM executive will lobby the federal government for.

– I missed the political keynote from the NDP leader to meet with reps from Sustane, a Waste-to-Energy company along with Gibbons Mayor Dan Deck, who sits on Roseridge board with me.

Our hour-long discussions provided us with a great deal of background on issues we are trying to resolve at the landfill as well as the entire region and province.

We will be inviting this company to our Landfill Commission meeting in July or August to explore the opportunity further. Of the entire trip, this is the one thing that could bring the greatest value to the community and region.

– Attended a morning session with Councillor Giffen on the plastics problem and building local solutions. This session was a packed house and not surprising, given the challenges we are all facing with plastics in North America. There was a fair amount to digest from three speakers and I feel there was a strong value from hearing the presentation.

– Attended a session on the overdose epidemic in Canada with Councillor Balanko. Of the four speakers, the Deputy Police Chief from Peterborough, Ontario [above] stood out far beyond the others. We were able to take away some data and some information to bring back to present to Council and staff.

– Attended Sturgeon County’s hospitality suite to network with County Councillors. At the County hospitality room, I and other councillors met a rep there from a company that has a unique approach to storm ponds that make them into parks with flowing water and a beach as well as other amenities. Everyone who saw it was intrigued by the concept and how that might look on the rec centre lands. The information will be shared with Administration to take a look into.

Saturday – June 1 – after conference

– Saturday evening, I attended Edmonton’s Urban BBQ event near our hotel with Council. It was great to wear a chef’s hat and talk to other elected officials from the region and around the country. We enjoyed some food and beers thanks to Edmonton’s hospitality. These gatherings are important because it is good to network with other elected officials, particularly in the Edmonton region in a less formal setting that we normally do. Having some personal understanding of one another is beneficial at the council, board or commission table.

– After the Edmonton event, I finally got to try some Quebec City Poutine. Council checked out one of the many places offering the classic food. Purchase of the poutine was out of my pocket – not the Town’s.

– Sunday – June 2

– Attended the AGM and Elections in the morning. This is an important element as we are selecting who will represent our municipality at the federal level in terms of advocating for our collective interests.

– Attended keynote from Green Leader. May is always well regarded. As I wrote on Facebook the day she spoke:

“Elizabeth May received a nearly full standing ovation today. Always last of the leaders to speak, she is always well received. Today’s was the best speech I have heard from her or any leader about the need for local elected officials to be leaders.”

– Attended the Alberta regional meeting to vote for our representatives on the FCM Board. This is another of the important functions of the conference. Only elected officials can vote for who will represent us and thereby our communities on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. That representation is important to advocating our interests and issues.

PS – if you think we eat high-end fare at these things – above is the box lunch. Decent but basic nourishment included in the registration fees.

– Joined councillors from Stony Plain, Morinville and Lloydminster for an informal chat over the extended lunch hour. Found great value in comparing notes on a variety of topics we are all going through and picked up suggestions and ideas for dealing with municipal issues from all who attended.

– Attended the closing ceremonies. The closing session this year included incoming president’s address and well as four presenters from The Walrus Magazine, presenting on smart cities, millennials, housing, and other issues intended to be provocative and make us think. I found the session a bit of preaching to the choir as many of the things they gave as homework are things we are already doing.

– Sunday – June 2 – after conference

– With the conference officially over, I attended the host city gala, which is always a great evening wrap up of regional food and entertainment as well as another chance to network and share ideas with others.

Have not danced that much in 25 years.

Monday – June 3

– prior to catching our flight Monday, three of us took a bus ride to Le Chute de Montmorency – a set of falls higher than Niagara. The bus ride was 45 minutes each way – we were given a free bus pass by the city. We only had about 15 minutes to view the falls, but it was worth seeing.

OVERARCHING THEME

– An overarching theme to the conference was to promote and have a conversation about Alberta oil and Canadian energy.

There were lots of opportunities to do that, and this was reiterated June 6 at our AUMA Caucus as we reflected with our president on what we all thought was a successful opportunity to speak one to one with Quebec and other elected officials.

On the closing day, almost every Albertan in attendance wore shirts promoting our resources handed out by AUMA.