FCM Québec City + GPFC June 10, 2019
It’s been a whirlwind couple weeks!
FCM 2019 in Québec City
Most of Council was in Québec City for the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities - It was packed with presentations, study tours, forums, and more. I was also reminded how fortunate I am to have a parent that made learning French a priority when we were kids - I was at an advantage being able to understand all the presentations and tours without needing translation services! Some of the highlights of the week include:
Climate Leadership Caucus
This impromptu event was expected to attract a couple-dozen councillors interested in how municipalities can “create the policies and political will to tackle climate change in Canada”, and ended up being a standing/sitting-room only event. I live-tweeted this explicitly non-partisan event, which covered topics like passive energy, public transit, single-use plastic bans, stormwater management, funding, youth engagement, Extended Producer Responsibility:
Single-Use Plastic Waste forum
This packed forum about what municipalities across the country are trying or planning to reduce waste in their cities was excellent. From pilots putting deposits on single-use coffee cups and cigarettes, to plastics bans, making sure festivals/events are using different options, encouraging people to carry their own washable cutlery/straws, single-use water bottle bans, circular economies, etc. I also live-tweeted this event:
Public Art Study Tour
We have a lot to learn from other municipalities when in comes to public art programs, efficiencies, transparency, and accountability. This tour, talking about the variety of programs, engagement tools, and costs, gave me a lot to think about before we consider public art in St. Albert later this year:
Assistance for people in vulnerable or crisis situations: Cooperation between police and front-line workers (Study tour)
This tour, about the programs in Quebec City managing repeat offenders was a bit disappointing - Although the successes they’re seeing are promising, the program didn’t really showcase novel ideas that could be brought back to St. Albert.
Opioid Crisis forum
This is another session that was a bit disappointing - Although shocking, the information wasn’t anything that we weren’t aware of and didn’t provide a compelling ideas of how municipalities can participate in the solutions.
GPFC Agenda Highlights
FCSS Operating Grant Program Policy (Amendment recommendations)
This policy governs some of the largest grants provided by the city for “preventative” programs being offered by not-for-profits, like the Family Life Education Program through the St. Albert Family Resource Centre and the Stop Abuse in Families Education Program. The Community Services Advisory Committee has reviewed this policy and provided feedback, and Administration has recommended amendments to this policy:
Like other grant policies that we’ve updated, include a clause that disallows “double-dipping” from multiple municipal grants for the same program.
Change the wording so that funding isn’t based on past years’ funding. New wording would base funding “on community need, gaps, and trends, and should remain flexible to ensure community needs are met”.
Update the name so that it’s clear that the funding is for programs (as described in the provincial act governing the grants), rather than for operating expenses.
Priority Based Business Planning & Budgeting - Results Matrix
As part of our 2020 budget process, Administration will plan and make recommendations based on the priorities of Council. This part of the meeting is to discuss the results of defining our priorities. The details of the priorities are extensive, with priority statements like the following intended to guide Admin activities and our budget planning process:
Fiscal responsibility and Innovative fund development model: Identify collaborative methods to promote economic growth through innovative fund development and incentives.
Clean, Visually Appealing, Well-Kept Community: Portrays a thriving, well-kept community that promotes community identity and offers safe, diverse and livable neighborhoods with a variety of housing options.
Cultural Programs, Services and Facilities: Supports and encourages community events and celebrations that foster a sense of community and embraces its cultural diversity.
Air, Water and Environmental Quality: Manages and mitigates factors that impact environmental quality of air, land and water, and increases public awareness of each citizen's role and responsibility in creating a healthy environment for all.
Availability of Safe, Affordable, Quality and Diverse Housing Options: Encourages and supports an adequate supply and variety of housing that meets the diverse needs of the community, its residents and workers.
Safe Mobility and Traffic Flow: Designs and constructs a safe transportation network that is well- maintained, accessible and enhances traffic flow for all types of mobility options.
Attract, Motivate, Develop and Retain a High-quality, Engaged Workforce: Attracts, develops, equips, motivates and retains a high-quality, diverse, engaged and productive workforce, focused on service excellence.
Capital Funding Strategies
Admin is recommending that “effective for the 2020 budget and ongoing, the equivalent of a 1.5% property tax increase be included in the municipal tax requirement and specifically targeted to capital reserves to support the repair, maintenance and replacement (RMR) of existing capital assets”.
So, this is to make sure that we will have the funds to support taking care of our existing infrastructure - roads, sewers, pools, buildings, etc. - and that we effectively plan for RMR needs. The reason for this planning is similar to why homeowners plan - to replace shingles, furnaces, or just to maintain their homes through painting, replacing flooring, etc. - to ensure that they aren’t left with a crumbling home or the inability to maintain their home.
This discussion will focus on the “options for addressing the chronic RMR capital spending shortfall…, <including> developing a method to establish an annual RMR capital funding target to ensure that funding is at the necessary level, and… closing the current RMR capital expenditure funding gap.”
This is a brief high-level overview of our meetings, 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 (1pm 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.