Big Lakes questions its value as FCM member

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County council is questioning the value as a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities [FCM].

At its regular meeting Feb. 10, council passed a motion to add its voice of concern about FCM stated in a letter from M.D. of Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuk.

Big Lakes Reeve Ken Matthews says he and Big Lakes council agree the FCM does little to support small and rural municipalities in western Canada.

Council agreed to send a letter of response signed by Matthews to the M.D. of Bonnyville.

“After discussing this topic with council and reflecting on the level of service our county currently receives from our federal advocate, we too agree that more should be done for western Canadian municipalities,” Matthews writes in the letter.

“We also feel that there is a bias towards the east.”

The Bonnyville reeve says the FCM is doing no good for the west.

“The past few years have presented convincing evidence of the continued lack of advocacy and blatant disregard [by FCM] for western Canada’s needs and one of its highly significant industries that impact us all, the natural resources industry,” Sawchuk writes.

“Our council is beyond frustrated with this lack of effective representation that western Canadian municipalities receive.”

Big Lakes agrees.

“Over the years, we have received millions of dollars in grant funding and have been successful in positively influencing federal policy through FCM,” Matthews says.

“However, we feel that our success is attributed to higher levels of participation from the west rather than FCM being effective advocates for rural and western needs.

“In short, we refuse to be ignored.”

The Bonnyville council even suggests a split in the FCM.

“Is it time we entertain the idea of a WCM – Western Canadian Municipalities?” Sawchuk asks.

Big Lakes suggests the FCM may be too large to serve the whole nation.

“The needs and standing with confederation is much different between the east and west,” Matthews admits.

“Likely a bigger difference is the needs between large urban and rural issues.”

Over the past several years, Big Lakes has allowed all nine council members to attend the annual FCM convention.

“Big Lakes County and the majority of our rural and western neighbours have always seen the importance of western provinces attending the FCM annual conference and trade show to make our voices heard and direct FCM’s advocacy efforts,” Matthews says.

“However, much of the content is catered more toward urban and eastern municipalities.

“We would like to see more topics that are specific to rural issues.”

The letter from the M.D. of Bonnyville was sent to all municipalities in Alberta, Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin and Alberta Urban Municipalities Association president Barry Mori- shita.

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