FCM - Nova Scotia Board Members Update
FCM Board of Directors met in Ottawa in November. Mayor Cecil Clarke, Councillor Tom Taggart and Councillor Russell Walker attended, and participated in FCM's Advocacy Days. While there, they met with MPs Bill Casey, Andy Fillmore, Darren Fisher, Sean Fraser, Darrell Samson, as well as Senators Terry Mercer and Kelvin Ogilvie. Councillor Karsten, in his role as 3rd Vice President, met with Ministers Judy Foote, Dominique LeBlanc, Bill Morneau and Armijeet Sohi, and the leaders of the Conservative and New Democrats parties - Rona Ambrose and Tom Mulcair.
Councillor Greg Hemming is now an FCM Board member for Nova Scotia, given the vacancy that occurred after the Nova Scotia municipal elections.
Municipalities have until January 9, 2017, to submit resolutions for consideration by the FCM Board at their March meeting. Please visit the FCM website for information regarding the resolution process.
Government of Canada Releases Details on New Rural Broadband Program
Brock Carlton, Chief Executive Officer, FCM
On December 15th, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced the launch of the federal government’s Connect to Innovate program. These new investments in broadband infrastructure respond directly to FCM’s call for increased federal involvement in developing the telecommunications infrastructure that is critical to the social, cultural and economic vibrancy of Canada’s rural, northern and remote communities.
First announced in Budget 2016, the new program will increase dedicated funding for high-speed broadband in rural and northern communities by investing $500 million over five years. Investments will be directed to new backbone infrastructure in rural and remote communities across Canada. Funding will also be dedicated to backbone capacity upgrades and resiliency, as well as last-mile infrastructure projects to households and businesses. Applications will be able to be submitted online as early as January 16, 2017 with a deadline for submissions on March 13, 2017.
This new initiative responds directly to FCM’s advocacy by helping to reduce the traditional lag-time in improving broadband service in high-cost serving areas, while allowing for targeted investments to focus on advanced broadband access. FCM will continue to work with the federal government to confirm additional details for this program, including the process for project selection.
FCM is also actively participating in a landmark federal consultation on the future of broadband Internet access in Canada. FCM’s final submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)’s Review of Basic Telecommunications Services calls for universal access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet and highlights the significant barriers faced by communities in both rural and northern Canada. The CRTC is expected to issue its decision in this review in the near future.
Broadband Internet access has become fundamental to modern life, and has the power to transform rural and northern Canada. Unfortunately, the “broadband gap” remains a reality in these rural and northern communities, as some are without broadband coverage while others remain underserved by bandwidth and network capacity that is insufficient to meet user demands. These recent steps provide a historic opportunity to continue developing a comprehensive, long-term plan for universal access to high-speed broadband. To realize this vision, we believe that all orders of government must work together. FCM is ready to partner with the CRTC and the federal government to turn this bold vision into meaningful action.
Statement by FCM President Clark Somerville on Quebec's Recognition of the Status of Municipalities as Local Governments
On December 8, FCM President Clark Somerville issued this statement following the tabling of Quebec's Bill 122: An Act Mainly to Recognize that Municipalities are Local Governments and to Increase Their Autonomy and Powers
With Bill 122, the Government of Quebec lays the foundations for a new and modernized relationship with municipalities and officially recognizes them as local governments. It also gives them greater autonomy in several front-line jurisdictions, including municipal taxation and finance, land use planning, transparency, governance and economic development. This bill gives municipalities greater flexibility and important tools to meet the specific needs of Quebec's cities and communities, regardless of their size.
This is a significant step forward for the municipal sector in Quebec and can inspire change in other jurisdictions. The role of municipalities as enablers of economic, social, and environmental change is being recognized by the Quebec government. We welcome this key advancement and wish to congratulate our provincial colleagues, the Union des municipalités du Québec and the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, for their hard work in helping to make this bill a reality.
FCM Releases How-To Guide to Welcoming Refugees
A year after Canada began opening its arms to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has released Welcoming Communities: A Toolkit for Municipal Governments. The practical guide builds on lessons learned by over 300 municipalities that have helped to welcome the newcomers
"I am proud of how Canadian municipalities stepped up and embraced our new Canadian family members," said FCM President Clark Somerville. "Now we've turned some of that experience into a practical guide to becoming truly welcoming communities for refugees.
"In September 2015, FCM launched a Task Force on Refugee Resettlement to share information across the country, to coordinate with federal, provincial and territorial governments, and to support frontline organizations and neighbourhood groups that led strong local responses. Welcoming Communities surveys the complex challenge of welcoming many refugees in a short period of time-focussing on priorities such as finding affordable housing, providing language and cultural supports, and building community connections.
"Once again, we are seeing how municipal action helps meet national challenges," added Somerville, "Of course, as emergency federal support winds down now in 'Month 13', we'll need to help these refugees face new challenges, like finding affordable longer-term housing.
"A housing crisis continues to play out in communities across Canada, with a deepening shortage of affordable housing options. FCM has recommended a comprehensive response, calling for significant funding for housing solutions in Budget 2017.
Since November 2015, 35,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada. FCM and its members recognize the cultural, social and economic value that newcomers contribute to our communities, and they will continue to be part of a solution to this tragic situation.
For a copy of the guide and other information on welcoming communities click here.