FCM Conference (Halifax):
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities hosts an annual conference and trade show; This year, it hosted in Halifax. With over 2000 elected officials attending, it was an incredible opportunity for me to learn about strategies and programs employed across the country in the pursuit of prosperous and vibrant communities. Some of the highlights:
- Thanks to the invitation of the Mayor of Lethbridge, I was able to join a tour hosted by the City of Halifax to their recycling and compost facilities; It was interesting learning about the different tactics used by both Lethbridge and all communities in Nova Scotia. (Not hosted by FCM, but members of our Council, Lethbridge, and Calgary were able to share a great deal of information on this tour.)
- Connecting with other under-40 "youth" that hold municipal office, and discussing ways to both engage youth, and to bring youth into leadership roles. Both the Youth Forum featuring a young politician, a key member of Obama's reelection campaign, and a student leader, and the Youth Reception were eye-opening.
- Learning about the struggles that women still face in persuing political leadership. Panelists made sobering points about participation and perception.
- Listening to keynotes from the leaders of Canada's federal parties. Hearing Trudeau, May, and Singh in person is enlightening, and is different from reading speeches in print.
- Attending an Inclusion workshop, where I gained insights from leaders in the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Manitoba, BC, Alberta, and Quebec. The work being done around transit, and creating inclusive spaces is inspiring.
- Learning about the impact to shorelines and coastal infrastructure caused by rising waters and climate change, and about urban forest management and the economic impact of urban trees in a workshop facilitated by a local university researcher and a Halifax arborist.
- Courtesy of in-residence artist and Emily Carr University Assistant Professor Lindsay McIntyre, I toured Halifax's Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative, where they are preparing for the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival being hosted this week. I also toured the Nova Scotia Art Gallery, and appreciated many vibrant public art pieces throughout the city. (Not hosted by FCM, but I'll take any opportunity to learn about initiatives in another community!)
- Speaking French. I am always surprised when bilingualism will come in handy; I loved being able to connect with francophone councillors, and being able to understand all speeches. Listening to the French perspective in terms of cultural and historical preservation is moving.
- Connecting informally with councillors from across the country. Although most of St. Albert Council attended this conference, I made a point of reaching out to those I don't see all the time (I even went a full day without seeing a couple of our councillors - easy enough to do when there are 2000 delegates present!). The conversations that I had about affordable housing and waste management, utilities corporations and the arts, diversity in governance, connectivity & transit, infrastructure management and design, opioids, taxation, and youth involvement happened because my counterparts across the country made themselves available to this stranger. My notepad is full of ideas to research and follow-up on.
(As Councillors, we're often faced with decisions about whether to attend conferences; My decisions are based on my availability, whether I believe that the conference will offer meaningful value, and balancing the cost with value. I've missed conferences that other members of St. Albert Council have attended, and I'll miss another big one in the fall - but I'm pleased that I was able to juggle my commitments to make this one work.)
This is a brief high-level overview of highlights from our meeting agenda, with my personal comments sprinkled in - In no way are my opinions representative of the official direction of council or the City of St. Albert. Please let me know of any typos or errors. As always, I also encourage everyone who is able to tune in the the live-stream of the meeting (3pm here) or attend in-person (3rd floor of St. Albert Place, hang a right getting out of the elevator). You can also register to speak if you have information to present to council. Full agenda packages can be found on the stalbert.ca website.