I STARTED the month in Ottawa at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) convention. This year’s event was the largest yet and attracted more than 3,000 delegates from big cities to small hamlets across Canada.
I had only been to one FCM in Vancouver about five years ago. This meeting was much better, with a strong presence from the federal government, a solid academic program, many worthwhile study tours and the usual social and networking opportunities.
It is often the social aspects of these meetings that garner criticism from taxpayers.
For the record and in the interest of full disclosure, I went to three receptions and enjoyed the hospitality of CUPE National, where I got to meet the national president; Emterra, where I met the Western Canada vice-president and discussed options for glass recycling; and Metro Vancouver, where I got to meet chair Greg Moore and its CAO and discuss regional concerns about climate change.
As for the keynote speakers, the headliner was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the introduction of the Smart Cities Challenge. I agree with Deputy Mayor Arjun Singh that Kamloops may well have a chance at one of these awards.
New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer had only been sworn in that week, so the party was represented by their finance critic, Gérard Deltell, and he offered his concerns about the Federal Infrastructure Bank.
Tom Mulcair addressed the assembly for the final time as NDP leader and Green Leader Elizabeth May also came and reiterated her opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
There were many perspectives, but all had a common message that local government is the most responsive and relevant level of government for local taxpayers.
I spent two half-days on study tours. On the first, I toured the bus rapid transit system operated in the Ottawa area by OC Transpo. They are investing almost $5 billion in a system that integrates bus and light rail to make commuting faster, easier and less expensive.
Connecting with all their major user groups, predominantly the federal government, University of Ottawa and Carleton University, they have done a deep dive into transportation demand management.
They currently operate almost 1,000 buses and connect local area networks with dedicated bus lanes and roadways. They have an ambitious plan to expand their light rail and are currently tunneling to many downtown destinations.
The second tour was with Ottawa’s chief forester and treecanada.ca. We learned about the complexity of the Ottawa urban forest and the importance and historical and national significance of its tree canopy.
Ottawa spends $18 million per year on its program, which includes a sugar bush in Vanier, an experimental farm, extensive disease control efforts against the emerald ash borer and the amazing historical forest on the grounds of the Governor General’s residence.
The significance of trees can never be overstated, but standing beside a maple planted by John F. Kennedy during a May 1961 state visit to Canada speaks volumes to the importance of trees in the urban form.
The academic sessions of the conference were quite relevant, especially one on managing the risks of bike parks since the 2016 decision against Bruce County finding it liable for injuries sustained by a rider in its mountain bike park.
While in Ottawa, I had an excellent opportunity to meet with MP Cathy McLeod and chat about the importance of Kinder Morgan and express concerns about marijuana legislation and municipal zoning.
Throw in a visit to the Museum of History and Supreme Court of Canada and it was and intense and stimulating few days.
Coun. Ken Christian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.