Friday April 25, 2014

Mayor meets in Ottawa on housing, infrastructure


The issues of a housing crunch, the need for infrastructure funding and railway safety were some of the hottest topics discussed by delegates to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) meeting at Ottawa, including Mayor Debra Button, representing the province as president of SUMA (Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association).

Mayor Button flew to Ottawa on Nov. 25, to be there as FCM met from Nov. 26-28 for their Advocacy Days meetings, along with one of their quarterly board meetings on Nov. 29. The advocacy meetings were held with Government members, the Opposition and the Senate.

The delegates were broken into teams, and Mayor Button’s group included Humboldt, Yorkton and Saskatoon; they had two “advocacy days” in which to hold meetings, which in their case included meeting MP Ralph Goodale, and a government member on the Hill.

One of Mayor Button’s focus areas has been with FCM trying to get an extension on the federal funding for their Ukraine program, where she has been heavily involved, both on delegations to Ukraine and bringing delegations here to Canada, aimed at improving their political system.

She said the extension depends on “if they’re happy with what we’re doing there; so far, they’re fairly pleased with what we’re doing.”

Mayor Button was involved from the point of view of encouraging more women to be involved in the political process in Ukraine.

On the focus area of infrastructure, the group focussed on discussions around the Building Canada Fund, one of the priority areas for FCM and a need for most municipalities, including Weyburn, which would make use of the “Small Community component” of the grant fund.

The lack of housing has become a priority of FCM also across Canada, which the delegates from Saskatchewan are well aware of.

“No matter where you come from, the housing crunch is a problem, with a lack of rental properties,” said the mayor. “We’ve been able to tap into provincial funding, but it’s limited.”

She gave the example told her by the representative from Humboldt where they applied for funding, and were turned down because the money went to Saskatoon, Regina and Weyburn.

The third priority was rail safety, sparked by the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic, Que., when a train derailed and caught on fire, causing major damages in that town.

FCM commented on new measures announced by the federal government for rail safety, including that railway operators are to provide information about dangerous goods to municipal emergency planners and first responders.

Mayor Button noted that she was able to have time to go in and watch Question Period in the House of Commons, which she doesn’t usually get time to do when she’s in Ottawa.

“I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of discussion on the Senate,” said the mayor.

Meantime, in relation to her work with FCM, Mayor Button noted she has been reappointed to the international women’s committee, through which she has been doing her work in Ukraine around encouraging women to be more involved in politics.


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