With the recent municipal declaration of a climate emergency and rising lake levels, both water and politics are seeping into the lives of many here in the County.
Recently, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) held their annual conference in Quebec City.
Four Prince Edward County Councillors, John Hirsch, Bill Roberts, Janice Maynard and Kate MacNaughton made the sojourn to Quebec for this event.
According to the FCM, the overarching objective for the 2019 Annual Conference was to engage all members in the coming fall federal election campaign in order to modernize the municipal-federal relationship.
With the theme Building Better Lives, the conference also featured panel discussions, policy workshops, study tours, FCM’s annual general meeting, and a trade show with 177 exhibitors.
“Whether it’s better roads, transit, housing or water systems, local governments are building better lives. We make the most of the tools available, but this next election needs to empower us to get even more done for Canadians,” said incoming FCM President Bill Karsten.
The FCM’s June 2nd press release stated that they had broken previous attendance records at this year’s conference.
“Over four days, more than 2,000 local leaders from every Canadian province and territory took that message directly to their federal counterparts—including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May,” Karsten added.
Speaking about the local connection to the event was MacNaughton.
“The conference was really fascinating and inspiring, particularly regarding municipal tools that we can access through the federation, for example, for feasibility studies for things such as asset management,” she stated.
“Also, it was interesting for a lot of initiatives to do with sustainability and resilience,” added MacNaughton.
She went on to cite the housing crisis that has “grown exponentially each year for the past several years and has outstripped the growth in some other regions.”
Among many, another area that has grappled with affordable housing is Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
The mayor of this city was at the conference, and MacNaughton noted that she was able to speak with them regarding this particular issue.
“It was invaluable to have been able to speak with people who have worked on similar issues in their own community, but are several years ahead,” stated MacNaughton.
Not only did the conference give municipal government representatives a chance to confer about common problems, it also gave them a chance to discuss possible solutions.
“It was really great to meet people from across the country who were grappling with the same issues and who were really passionate about finding solutions, or were several steps behind or ahead of us in terms of creating solutions,” added MacNaughton.
According to the press release the FCM conference provided opportunities for delegates to bring their diverse realities to discussions of some of our most pressing national issues.
“On Saturday, the collective passed several resolutions calling for federal action on key issues, from housing affordability to a national broadband strategy. And Sunday, showcasing their trademark mutual respect, local leaders explored ways to advance energy infrastructure—to build better lives by strengthening local economies while protecting our environment.”
Rich in discussions and workshops, this event helped to give municipal representatives, such as MacNaughton, the tools with which to better the lives of their constituents.
“I came away with some great tools to help understand the difficulties that staff will have managing assets in our community,” said MacNaughton, adding “This is part of a larger conversation that we should be having with the County.”
“We will never have enough money to cover all of our infrastructure deficits-unless they suddenly find diamonds in Ameliasburgh,” quipped MacNaughton.
“Our roads are never going to be perfect, so we have to focus our spending in ways that manage as best we can to keep everybody moving and to keep our social services going. We need to maybe have expectations that things aren’t going to be perfect, but we will manage things as effectively as we can,” she told the Gazette.
“We’re the governments closest to people’s daily lives, and we’ll work with every party to make those lives better and more affordable,” said FCM President Bill Karsten.
Chiming in on the growing dialogue between municipal and federal representatives as well as that between constituents alike, MacNaughton believes, “there’s a conversation to be had and it’s a good one.”
“I believe this council really wants to have some open and honest conversations with the public about some of the challenges that we face,” said MacNaughton.
With a relatively new council and what seems like a growing mountain of pressing issues, whether that be climate change or affordable housing, now is as good a time as any to open the channels of discussion.