FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 3, 2021
Regina—Leaders representing Western Canada’s municipal associations met earlier this week to discuss issues, share information, and collaborate.
The Western Canadian Municipal Associations (WCMA) meeting brought together elected officials and staff from the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM), the Union of B.C Municipalities (UBCM), Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA).
"Municipalities in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Alberta share many similar challenges,” said Rodger Hayward, SUMA President. "By coming together, we have the opportunity to discuss those common concerns, find joint solutions, and present a unified voice on the issues that are impacting the communities in Western Canada.”
Topics included at this meeting: flood support and aid for the province of British Columbia, access to reliable broadband, oil and gas tax arrears, carbon offsets, and increasing policing costs.
The associations want to remain supportive and flexible to the needs of British Columbia during this challenging and unprecedented time.
"As British Columbia continues to navigate this very difficult situation, WCMA members have offered to provide any support that we can," said Paul Mclauchlin, President of RMA. "Our neighbours to the west are going through a difficult time; we just wanted them to know that we have their back."
During conversations around broadband internet, it was clear that access to reliable broadband is still a top priority. Broadband needs to be affordable and accessible to support the well-being of those living and travelling in rural and remote areas. The WCMA support a more rapid rollout of broadband projects to end digital poverty across Canada and call on the federal government to increase the scope of partnerships and work with the provincial governments on affordable broadband.
"Access to stable and reliable internet has become fundamentally important to our everyday lives, much like electricity and other utilities are. Broadband impacts how we work, run our businesses, meet with our colleagues, educate our children, and even how we spend our downtime,” said Ray Orb, President of SARM. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential nature of access to reliable broadband throughout the province and the disparity between different areas in Saskatchewan."
Another issue discussed at the meeting was the uncertainty municipalities face regarding the cost of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police unionizing their police force. Many jurisdictions contract the RCMP for policing services across the country. The associations recognize that compensation needs to be fair and remain competitive. Still, there is a genuine concern regarding who is responsible for the anticipated rising costs. There was a lack of clarity and understanding echoed around the meeting table by WCMA members on the expectations of the federal government. The collective bargaining process did not include input from municipalities, despite being a paying contract provider.
"Since we were not at the negotiating table, we are calling on the federal government to fully absorb all retroactive pay increases which the federal government negotiated," said Kam Blight, AMM President.
The WCMA will continue its efforts to find commonalities between the jurisdictions and continue to support efforts to be a strong advocate for issues that matter to Western Canada.
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