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WHEREAS all rural municipalities in Alberta are members of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) which is a collective of nearly 2000 member municipalities of all sizes across Canada; and
WHEREAS FCM’s purpose is to advocate for municipalities to be sure their citizens’ needs are reflected in federal policies and programs; and
WHEREAS FCM has identified rural, northern, and remote communities as one of 15 focus areas for its advocacy efforts; and
WHEREAS rural municipalities in Alberta recognize that rural municipalities and their priorities were not always included as a focus of FCM, and appreciate efforts made by FCM to incorporate rural municipalities and their priorities into its platforms; and
WHEREAS attendance at the 2019 FCM conference resulted in disappointment for rural municipal leaders because the issues impacting them and western Canadian perspectives on major points of discussion were not accurately represented at the conference; and
WHEREAS rural municipalities in Alberta believe that there is opportunity for improvement in FCM’s representation of rural and western Canadian issues and perspectives;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) use their collective strength and understanding of the rural municipal perspective and priority issues to promote accurate inclusion of rural and western Canadian issues and perspectives at the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference, and in FCM communications and advocacy efforts; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA send a letter to FCM identifying areas of alignment and concern with the content of the 2019 annual FCM conference and requesting that planning committees for future annual conferences include appropriate representation from rural western Canada to ensure that conferences are relevant and meaningful to all member municipalities.
Members of Wheatland County Council attended the 2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference from May 30 to June 3 in Quebec City, and returned with varying reviews of the event. All councillors discussed the viewpoints at Wheatland County’s July 2nd council meeting. On one hand, it was felt that the FCM conference did not offer enough value to rural municipalities, and that efforts made to include rural topics were insufficient. Concern was raised over bias towards topics and mindsets more reflective of eastern Canada, and too prominent a focus on urban municipal issues. A recommendation was made to discontinue attendance at the conference and encourage other rural municipalities in Alberta to follow suit as a means of protest.
On the other hand, it was noted that the conference did in fact provide some topics of rural interest while also offering opportunities to provide feedback and ask questions, bring back information that could be applied to decision-making, and network with other rural municipalities across the country. A presentation on broadband, rural town hall on growth of rural communities, and rural plenary about vibrant rural economies featuring two Albertan speakers, were notable rural-focused sessions. This perspective agreed, however, that there was room for improvement, identifying a “Farm Hub” session that did not represent the grain or beef industries. Offence was expressed that a major federal topic of interest to Albertans, energy and pipelines, was inadequately scheduled to occur too early in the morning, and in such a way that the whole delegation did not have the opportunity to attend. It did not suggest that the FCM was taking the topic as seriously as Albertans deserve.
Comments from other councillors noted that FCM had come a long way, since rural matters had not previously been included in their advocacy and now are included as an area of focus. The importance of keeping the rural voice at the table was discussed, noting the progress that could be made by continuing to work towards constructive change at the FCM level rather than choosing to not attend events. It was recognized that Canada is a vast country with different needs and a wide range of geographic problems yet agreed that the FCM organization needed to be doing a better job of offering value to its rural members both at events and through its advocacy. Ultimately, a common desire emerged to educate FCM as to the rural perspectives and issues of priority to western Canadians and advocate for better inclusion in the annual conference, and FCM communications and advocacy efforts. It was determined that the collective strength of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta was the best means of advancing this agenda.
This resolution is intended to facilitate two outcomes; the first being that RMA communicate on an ongoing basis with FCM the topics of priority to RMA’s membership and the importance of including them in advocacy, communications, and events at the federal level. It must be demonstrated that rural and western Canadians do not appreciate bias against their perspectives and the issues influencing their livelihoods. Representation of these priorities is required to also educate the rest of Canada as to the factors influencing decision-making in Alberta. We hope that RMA will be rural municipalities’ vessel to ensure that specific issues of importance are brought to the table.
Secondly, it is recognized that there are significant challenges in designing a conference that is relevant to everyone when there is such a vast diversity in FCM’s membership. We would like RMA to write a letter requesting that moving forward FCM ensure that rural, western Canada has appropriate representation on conference planning committees with the intent to maximize the relevance and value of the event to all member municipalities. This letter also provides an opportunity to collect from RMA’s membership areas of alignment and concern with the 2019 conference and provide them to FCM as input. One example is the inappropriate scheduling of the energy-focused topic.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
No formal response has been received to date.
RMA is represented on FCM’s Standing Committee on Conference Planning by Cypress County Councillor Robin Kurpjeweit, who provides input into the structure and content of annual FCM conventions. However, the committee also includes participation from 35 other municipal representatives from across Canada, each with their own priorities for conference content.
The 2020 conference was cancelled, and the 2021 conference was held virtually. Programming details for the 2022 conference, held in Regina, did not appear to have significant rural- or Western Canada-specific programming. are not yet known.
This resolution is currently assigned a status of Incomplete Information.