Qualicum Beach council debates value of attending FCM in Winnipeg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the keynote speaker this year

Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer put forward a motion Monday night to encourage sending a minimum of two members of council to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference for 2016.

Luchtmeijer also said he thinks council members should attend the FCM annually.

“I think we, as a community, have a responsibility and that responsibility is to get as much work done for as little of our tax dollars as possible,” Luchtmeijer said. “Right now the province has told us over and over again funding cuts, funding restrictions, support for communities just isn’t there. The money isn’t there.”

He added that the federal government is promising large expenditures on infrastructure across Canada, and Luchtmeijer said the FCM convention is the group and place to “lobby and press hard from our community.”

“One person (instead of two representatives from Qualicum Beach) lost in crowds of 3,000 plus, to me, is a rather forlorn representation for our community,” Luchtmeijer said.

Coun. Barry Avis supported the motion. He said it will be a pivotal moment in federal and municipal relations.

“I see this as the federal government is really concentrating on infrastructure funding and the prime minister is going to be there and the theme is going to be working together with municipalities,” Avis said.

“I think we do ourselves an injustice if anyone on council that wants to go, doesn’t go.”

However, Coun. Anne Skipsey did not think it was necessary for two members of council to attend every FCM conference every year.

“To make a minimum requirement for council attendance into a hard and fast policy, I think is a mistake.”

She added that the cost could be substantial to taxpayers.

“We’re not talking a couple of hundred dollars, we’re talking probably in the ballpark of $5,000 if it’s on the other side of the country,” Skipsey said.

She said she thinks there could be years when the “infrastructure plate is full, and our to-do lists are already too long.”

“I’m not sure what it is on our plate that is so important this year,” Skipsey said. “I understand making the connections and whatnot, but if there was a particular project that we were really wanting to push, perhaps it is appropriate.”

Mayor Teunis Westbroek said creating a minimum would make people feel like they have to go to the annual convention, but he said he looked into registration.

He added he thought it would be responsible for the mayor to attend.

“I thought in this case because all the leaders of the party are there and it’s a new government, and they do have strong indications that they want to work with local governments far more than the previous government,” Westbroek said.

Coun. Neil Horner was originally scheduled to attend, but instead asked that the funds be put toward a community event.

This year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be the keynote speaker at the convention in Winnipeg from June 2-5.

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