A playground that is safe and fun for kids of all ages, public security agents patrolling in environmentally friendly vehicles, major green spaces returned to public use and residential streets that are designed to slow down traffic making it safe for children to play – these are the dreams dancing through councillors’ heads upon returning from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities‘ annual general meeting.
Cote Saint-Luc Councillors Sam Goldbloom, Ruth Kovac, Steven Erdelyi, Allan Levine and I were in Saskatoon from June 1 to 4, and we returned eager to share best practices from other Canadian municipalities.
We had a unique and privileged opportunity to sit in on plenary sessions to hear from the national leaders, including the Conservative government’s infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel, NDP Leader of the Opposition Thomas Mulcair, Liberal Leader Bob Rae and Green leader Elizabeth May. All political parties spoke of the necessity to continue the infrastructure program that allowed Cote Saint-Luc, as one example, to build a first-class Aquatic and Community Centre. The government announced that steady funding of municipalities would continue to great applause.
We also took part in learning sessions on a wide array of topics from the environment to public safety, financing to waste management. The study tours were particularly motivating. Saskatoon has designed parks and playgrounds with incredible imagination to make them educational and entertaining and fully respecting the environment. They built in maximum involvement from the community, in planning, and financing partnerships. There was so much to learn from their examples that could benefit the residents of Cote Saint-Luc and I am looking forward to working on the redesign of our flagship Trudeau Park in creating an even better use of public spaces.
We are bringing back best practices from across the country as to how other municipalities deal with issues that we all have in common, whether it’s water management, roads and sewer, recreational facilities or disaster readiness.
I was particularly impressed with the human touch offered by the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS). The officers, from Deputy Chief Parnel to Sargent Patrick Barbar (relocated from the Montreal area) were friendly and approachable, pleased to teach anyone interested about all the SPS does for its local citizens.
The SPS demonstrated the effectiveness of its K-9 force, remote-controlled camera-mounted mini-helicopter used to get close to situations where their personnel might otherwise be in direct danger and explained how they work with landlords in high crime areas to create safer and more hospitable areas.
Similarly the Saskatoon Transit folks were friendly, personable and very helpful. Granted they were shuttling 1500 local government officials around their city however it showed how all civil servants are the front line personnel interacting with our citizens and that their style of communications and expression plays an important role in creating a customer-service oriented city.
We elected a new FCM president to lead the organization for the next year. Councillor Karen Lebovici of the City of Edmonton, Alberta is no stranger to Cote Saint-Luc. She visits our city regularly as her parents live here. We invited her to meet our council on an upcoming trip to discuss how our local government can continue to be a voice on the national stage.
Outgoing President Berry Vrabanovic of Kitchener, Ontario gave a humourous and engaging speech about his work at the national and international level. Watch this terrific short episode as Berry does a Rick Mercer style rant about on the importance of Canada’s communities and cities – the place we call home.