When more than 1,700 elected municipal officials from across Canada gather in Whistler, from June 5 to 8 for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' (FCM) 72nd Annual Conference and Municipal ExpoTM, they won't be here to admire the breathtaking scenery. They'll be here to network, listen and learn.
FCM President Jean Perrault, mayor of Sherbrooke, Que., says this year's annual conference is more important than ever because delegates will be discussing the federal government's $12-billion infrastructure stimulus plan.
"Our municipalities need to know how and when they can access stimulus dollars so that they can put money to work creating jobs on worthwhile local projects such as fixing crumbling roads, expanding public transit systems and improving air quality," says Perrault. "We can't think of anything more urgent for municipal officials to focus on during the current global economic downturn."
During four days of meetings and events, delegates will explore the conference theme, "Partnering for Success" and discuss ways to improve their municipalities through effective and accountable municipal government.
Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities John Baird; Leader of the Official Opposition Micheal Ignatieff; New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton; and invited guests, including renowned environmental film producer Jean Lemire, will speak to delegates at the TELUS Whistler Conference Centre.
Study tours will showcase Whistler responses to the changing ways of delivering municipal services including its new state-of-the-art composting facility and program; and its resident-restricted housing projects, such as the Whistler Olympic and Paralympic Athletes' Village which, after the 2010 Games, will be turned into a neighbourhood with mixed housing options to meet the accommodation demands of Whistler residents.
Seminars, workshops and plenary sessions will cover such topics as the role of municipal governments in planning for and combating a pandemic; how municipalities can reduce their impact on the environment and save money; and how to build age-friendly communities as Canada's population ages.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed says he and former Whistler councillor Nick Davies developed the idea to host FCM's conference after attending the 2001 event in Banff, Alta.
"We saw this as an opportunity to share Whistler's magic and showcase innovations in community planning to the delegates from across Canada," says Melamed.
"The FCM delegates are an important group for us to welcome, and we hope they will leave enriched with new ideas, inspired for their work, and with best wishes for us in hosting Canada's Olympic Games eight short months from now."
FCM's Municipal Expo TM trade show, which runs June 5 and 6, offers delegates the opportunity to meet up to 130 exhibitors and learn about goods and services that include innovative public transit solutions; electronic voting options; and the solar-powered compacting of trash and recycling.
Linda Osinchuk, a councillor in Strathcona County, Alta., says she takes a wealth of ideas, materials and new concepts home after each conference and trade show.
"The main benefit is networking with fellow elected officials from across the country to compare policies, governance styles and issues. Most importantly, we learn to better ourselves as the voice of the people we represent," says Osinchuk, who's attended four FCM conferences. "Another benefit is to communicate with other women in leadership positions."
Ann Seamans, a councillor in Riverview, N.B., says the knowledge she's acquired from attending FCM's conferences is still useful after 11 years in office.
"The first conference I went to was when I was new on council. I found it very educational because it addressed issues for new councillors and explained what our role was," says Seamans. "And I've followed that advice throughout my political career."
Melamed says he's confident that his Whistler council colleagues will gain new perspective after hosting and participating in the four-day conference.
"We are always eager to learn creative solutions to our common challenges, build relationships, network with our colleagues, and strengthen the influence of local governments in our role as the most important agency improving the lives of Canadians."
- Submitted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities