Yesterday, I returned from Federation of Canadian Municipalities committee meetings in St. John’s, NL. Four times a year, along with about 100 other local politicians from across Canada, I attend meetings at various cities across the country on behalf of the city.
The FCM represents more than 2,000 municipalities and 90 per cent of Canada’s population. Its goal is to ensure the federal government knows local governments’ concerns and supports communities such as Kamloops in our citizens’ goals for a safe, sustainable community.
Here are some specific ways the FCM is helping Kamloops.
First, Kamloops is a railway town. Railways are federally regulated, so Kamloops has
no jurisdiction over their operations.
Immediately after the rail disaster in Lac Mégantic, Que., FCM struck a national committee to lobby the federal government for increased municipal input into rail operations.
The FCM wants the federal government to equip and support municipal first responders for rail emergencies. As well, it wants to ensure federal and industry policies and regulations address the rail safety concerns of municipalities. Finally, it wants to prevent off-loading of rail safety and emergency response costs to local taxpayers.
While Kamloops City council sits down annually with the railways to discuss local concerns, it will be through the work of the FCM that federal legislation will be made.
Second, the FCM’s lobbying ensured long-term, predictable infrastructure funding for
Kamloops. In the 2013 budget, the federal government announced a 10-year renewal of the Gas Tax Fund. The deal gives the City of Kamloops budgetary certainty. Without the federal government paying its share for projects like Kamloops’ new $40-million wastewater treatment plant, Kamloops homeowners would have paid far more.
Third, Kamloops is currently short about 2,000 units of affordable housing. One of the City’s goals, through a partnership with the Kamloops Homelessness Plan and others, is to increase the amount of affordable housing for seniors, young families, people with disabilities and others.
For the next couple of years, a key goal of the FCM will be to work with the federal government on national housing initiatives. The FCM wants a national housing policy so all Canadians are adequately housed. This is good news for Kamloops, since whatever the FCM accomplishes will benefit Kamloops residents.
Fourth, the average Kamloops household pays $145 a year for garbage pickup. Seventy per cent of our waste is landfilled rather than recycled or diverted as yard waste.
FCM is currently working with both the federal government and manufacturers on a zero-waste initiative, which would put the onus on manufacturers to reduce packaging and improve recycling of products through extended producer
Less waste created can lower your utility bill. As a bonus, less waste means the Mission Flats landfill would last longer, which would save Kamloops taxpayers even more money, since creating new landfills is expensive.
Nancy Bepple is a councillor with the City of Kamloops.