SARM Annual Convention Highlights – Day 1& 2

Registration Reception
On Monday, March 10, SARM held its registration reception, sponsored by the Saskatchewan Municipal Hail Insurance Association.  Over 900 people registered and browsed the 110 Trade Show Booths.  

Tuesday, March 11 – Highlights
The convention opened on Tuesday morning.  There were about 1600 guest and delegates, representing 273 rural municipalities, in attendance throughout the day. 

Lieutenant Governor Opens Convention

His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Dr. Gordon Barnhart, gave a kind welcome to guests and convention delegates.  His Honour talked about the history of our province and the importance of agriculture and the rural lifestyle to Saskatchewan.  He stressed the significance of serving in public life, and commended the reeves and councillors for their contributions.   

Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service to Rural Saskatchewan
Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff, Minister of Crown Corporations, on behalf of SaskPower, sponsor of the awards, gave a warm introduction to the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service to Rural Saskatchewan, Les Potter.  Les was a Reeve for the RM of Gull Lake No. 139 for 7 years.  He is certainly a deserving recipient, and is a man dedicated to his community, having served several years on many boards and committees. Mr. Potter was presented with a Dave Hengen painting, and his wife Beverly, was presented with a bouquet from Her Honour, Naomi Barnhart. 

Premiers Address
Premier Wall spoke about the importance of promoting Saskatchewan to the world.  Much of this province potential is built on resources that are located in rural Saskatchewan.  Infrastructure is key to support and grow these industries.  The government understands the importance of primary weight roads and rural corridors and is working to address these infrastructure needs. The government is working to find a long-term solution for the issue of education property tax.   The Premier also touched on the work they are doing on: q       Changes to crop insuranceq       Input costsq       Education act school closures 

President’s Address
President Marit reported on the Association’s activities over the past year.   President Marit commented on rural issues such as infrastructure and agriculture.  He focused on the importance of maintaining and growing partnerships with other organizations and governments.  He pointed to successes such as Clearing the Path and challenges such as potential school closures.  President Marit highlighted the potential biofuels industry as an opportunity for the agriculture sector and disasters such as flooding and drought as challenges for producers, industry and governments.   The President closed by thanking partner organizations and governments for their cooperation, as well as the SARM board, staff and members for their dedication and support.     

RMAA Curling Presentation
John Eberl, RMAA Director of Division 2, announced the winners of the 2008 curling.  They were from the RM of Argyle No. 1.  The winning team members were Skip Barry Elliot, Third Barb Rob Meredith, Second Ron Murray, and Lead Val Olney. 

Report from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Delegates heard from President, Gord Steeves from Winnipeg.  Gord praised the municipal leaders of Saskatchewan and thanked provincial FCM members.   He brought SARM delegates up to date on several FCM issues such as the federal gas tax revenue and the federal fiscal imbalance. He also pointed out that the recent changes to permanently return gas tax funds to municipalities prove that municipal governments are being heard.  Municipalities need to continue to work together and go forward with one voice. 

Rural Matters! Forging Health Canadian Communities
Don Johnson, President, Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMD&D) highlighted the agenda of the Rural Matters conference.  Rural Matters! will provide an opportunity to:•Promote co-ordination and network with rural stakeholders on common issues in the areas of economic, governance, infrastructure, and environmental sustainability.•Share knowledge, learn and gain understanding of perspectives, strategies and examples of innovative and effective approaches to forging healthy, viable and diversified rural communities. •Develop key messages and set priorities for strengthening the economic, governance, infrastructure and environmental foundations of rural communities. 

Keynote Speaker Darci Lang
Guest speaker Darci Lang brought an inspirational message that everyone can apply to his or her lives.  She encouraged delegates to focus on the 90%, and not get caught up in the negative.  You cannot make a difference when focused on the 10%.  We can only control “the man in the mirror”, but must look at others with compassion and empathy.  Your job does not define you and at the end of the day we must ensure that there is something left for our families and ourselves.  

Honourable Bill Hutchinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs

The Honourable Bill Hutchinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs touched on many challenges that municipalities face in the many different areas of the province.  Minister Hutchinson emphasized the fact that the government is getting ready for growth with an investment.  He also touched on the new Saskatchewan Infrastructure Growth Initiative (SIGI), which is a $300 million loan program to meet the growing needs of all municipalities.  He also highlighted the work the Ministry of Municipal Affairs department is doing on revenue sharing, regional land use and planning and building working relationships.  

SARM Agriculture Report
Laurel Feltin, SARM Director of Agriculture policy discussed a number of Regulatory Changes currently affecting the agriculture industry.

1.  Win – freight rates
The FRCC determined that railways were overcharging; there was a CTA investigation.  The result was a $72 million reduction in the rail revenue cap, however the railways are appealing.
2.  Kernel Visual Distinguishability (KVD)Aug. 1, 2008 KVD will be removed on all 8 wheat classes.  SARM will be monitoring this issue and asking why the two major classes were included.             

3.  CGC Reforms- CGC to act in the interests of entire grain sector             
– Mandatory inward Inspection & weighing– 
– Remove Producer Payment Security Program.           
– Stronger enforcement provisions 

4.  Own Use ImportsReplacement program for OUI isn’t working.  Federal Government needs to reinstate the OUI program until the new GROU program is proven effective.   

5.  Tax Deferral ProgramOwners of breeding livestock in certain areas of southern Saskatchewan will be eligible for a one year tax deferral on 2007 income these from sales. 

Honourable Bob Bjornerud, Minister of Agriculture
Minister Bjornerud touched on the recent changes to crop insurance.  There will be a review of the program this spring and the ministry is encouraging input from all producers.  The government is working to bring the administration of CAIS home and to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers.  They are monitoring the flooding in the northeast as well as the drought situation in the southwest.  They are also pushing for the continuation of the environmental farm plan and CASS funding.  While there are many bright spots in the agriculture industry today, the Minister expressed his concerns of the high input cost producers are facing this spring. Minister Bjornerud announced that 60 additional RMs will have access to 2% liquid strychnine this spring and are committed to working with SARM to find alternatives with $380,000 of provincial funding for research. .