Earlier this week I had the opportunity to participate with over 1600 local elected officials from across the country in the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The theme of this years’ gathering was “Municipalities, The Heart of Canada.” I could not agree more with that statement. Our cities and towns, large and small, urban and rural, are where we live, work and play. We are the level of government closest to citizens and most responsive to their needs.
Neighbourly mayors and councillors: Dida Berku, Allan J. Levine, Marvin Rotrand, Russell Copeman, William Steinberg, Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac
This was an unparalleled opportunity to engage with elected representatives from municipal governments in all ten provinces and all three territories. It was a chance to hear from experts in many social sectors and industries.
CSL Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at FCM 2016
I attended a workshop dealing with effective engagement with local first responders. The panel included outstanding professionals including Cathy Palmer, a member of the Calgary police force who serves on police governance associations across Canada, former Saskatoon Fire Chief Dan Paulson and Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis. The three were highly informative and very instructive. Also in attendance was Stephanie Durant, Director General of Public Safety Canada.
Winnipeg Police car decorated for the Pride parade
Chief Clunis stressed the importance of having outside bodies to come in and measure the efficiency of municipal operations.
I was particularly pleased by comments by Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service Chief John Lane who said, residential sprinklers are a minimal investment and the long-term benefits are very significant. “This is the right way to go. You need the political fortitude to get this done in your communities,” he said.
I’m proud to have pressed for a residential sprinkler law in Cote Saint-Luc, an early adopter in Quebec. Our city is much safer thanks to this bylaw.
Winnipeg Fire Chief John Lane leads his service in the Pride parade
There was a very moving and emotional “Tribute to Fort McMurray.” The delegates thanked the first responders and elected representatives of the surrounding municipalities for stepping up to meet the urgent and immediate needs of those residing in the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the regional government encompassing Fort McMurray. The assembly reached out to salute and recognize all Albertans and Canadians for pitching in with relief aid.
The following musical video tribute was presented to a standing ovation:
A tearful Councillor Allan Glenn Vinni from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo thanked the FCM delegates for support and encouragement and lots and lots of cash assistance. “We will get the job done and rebuild,” Vinni said, adding it will take between three and five years to recover.
The mayor of sister city Lac la Biche said the Fort McMurray disaster became a cause for all municipalities from coast to coast. “You should all be proud. You’ve shown the world what we can do.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said, “The response of municipalities has been extraordinary. They received tens of thousands of ‘refugees’. Small communities doubled their population overnight. It was the smaller communities that stood up in an extraordinary way. Response erupted in a local way,” the mayor said. Iveson pointed out that his city had to cope with hundreds of unscheduled evacuation flights. “The arrival of South African firefighters
, singing in the airport, was a very powerful moment.”
“Hoteliers gave rooms for free. Apartment owners gave rooms for free. Moms cooked meals. Bus drivers drove evacuees. Firefighters volunteered to go to the epicentre,” Iveson said of the extraordinary efforts of everyday Canadians.
To great applause, Tree Canada’s executive director, Michael Rosen, announced the “re-greening” of Fort McMurray.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the FCM 2016 delegation in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signaled the important partnership that municipalities will play under a Liberal government in Ottawa.
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May addresses the FCM 2016
Green Party leader Elizabeth May as referred to as “one the most influential women in the world,” according to Newsweek.
This isn’t a time to build pipelines, May said. It’s time for an “orderly liquidation of fossil fuels” she said, quoting an industry analysts in last week’s Globe and Mail.
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen at FCM 2016
“It makes a lot of sense for municipal leadership at the local level to have a role in national discussions when so much of that discussion involves municipal life,” May said. “Municipal government has proven they are agile even with one hand tied behind your back. Keep passing resolutions demanding change regarding climate change,” she said.
Gala dinner FCM 2016 – Standing: Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Elaine Brownstein, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Doris Steinberg. Seated: Cllr. Dida Berku, Jacob Kincler, Tree Canada Executive Director Michael Rosen, Mayor William Steinberg.
Great respect and sensitivity was paid to First Nation communities throughout Canada. Winnipeg, it was pointed out, is the homeland of the Métis. It is a ‘Treaty Territory’ at the fork of the Assiniboine River and Red River.
One of the indigenous leaders was invited to bring a blessing to the assembly. He thanked ‘Mother Earth’ for the food and water and delivered a special greeting to the women who have exceptional blessings of the aboriginal leaders, for having ‘open minds and open spirits and for celebrating life”. The traditional wishes ended with “Mig’wich”.
We were fortunate to meet Winnipeg Councillor Marty Marantz (representing Tuxedo) and his wife Lisa. Marty represents a constituency most similar to Cote Saint-Luc in terms of Jewish community with many families in his town having links to families in ours.
St. Leonard Borough Mayor Michel Bissonet, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. nashen, Jacob Kincler and Cllr. Sam Goldbloom at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg
Winnipeg is also home to the only national museum outside of Ottawa. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is an architectural marvel and educational castle. It was an extraordinary experience to gather with all FCM delegates in this amazing national treasure and to learn about Canada’s brighter and darker chapters in human rights.
Speaking of human rights, it also happened to be International Pride Day, and the extremely festive and lively parade made its way right under Winnipeg’s new and spacious RBC Convention Centre. FCM delegates poured into the streets to cheer on the thousands of revelers including major city services.
Hi 5 to Winnipeg EMS showing their pride
Cote Saint-Luc Mayor and Councillors proud to salute those participating in Winnipeg’s Pride Parade
The FCM Trade Show is an incredible learning opportunity with displays by well over one hundred exhibitors from national organizations, corporations, municipal suppliers and federal government agencies. The information gleaned in these venues enables us to learn about best practices, emerging technologies and to be educated by federal department staff and non-profit experts.
Sun Country representatives promoted electric vehicle (EV) possibilities for municipal fleets and EV charging stations. CSL will soon install its first EV charging stations.
Overall, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is an incredible organization representing cities and towns from coast to coast to coast. It has served as the national voice of municipalities since 1901. Cote Saint-Luc benefits greatly by its membership and participation in its annual conferences.
The City of Winnipeg under the leadership of Mayor Brian Bowman is to be congratulated for its sensational hosting of FCM 2016. Winnipeg’s city staff were out in full force assisting in every aspect and always with a smile. It is very clear why it’s called “Friendly Manitoba.”
Setting Sun in Winnipeg: The Manitoba Legislature with the Golden Boy atop and the Manitoba Law Courts with its green dome as photographed from the RBC Convention Centre.