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Moe Open to Trilateral Talks on Municipal Fiscal Framework

In a notable development at the 2024 Spring Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) Conference, Premier Scott Moe expressed his willingness to engage in trilateral discussions with the federal government and municipal authorities concerning a potential new fiscal framework for municipalities.

Addressing reporters during a press conference at the event, Premier Moe affirmed his openness to the idea of convening discussions among the three tiers of government.

When asked by Cross Border Interviews about the prospect of such talks, Moe stated, "More discussion is always better."

The Saskatchewan Premier pointed out the recent federal budget announcements regarding housing in Canada's three largest cities, lamenting the absence of similar initiatives for the rest of the country. He noted that these announcements were utilizing infrastructure funding originally designated for all municipalities, a move Moe characterized as unilateral, with little consultation with the provinces.

"This shift from infrastructure funding to housing by the federal government was unilateral," remarked Moe, highlighting the lack of coordination between federal and provincial levels. He emphasized the necessity for inclusive dialogue, stating, "It's quite the opposite of what is suggested by (FCM) by having everyone sitting down and having a conversation."

Moe underscored the significance of infrastructure investments for both rural and urban communities, essential for enabling the provision of vital services. "We need to revisit this as a Provincial government," he asserted, echoing the sentiment of many municipal leaders present at the conference.

Expressing concern over the potential breakdown in federal-provincial collaboration, Moe remarked, "I fear that we are losing a federal partner in this conversation, and that would be disappointing." However, he added with a wry smile, "That could all be changed with a change at the federal level."

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), representing SUMA among others municipal organizations, has been advocating for a new municipal growth framework since early 2023. This proposed framework aims to create a more diverse, predictable, and equitable method of funding local governments, necessitating cooperation between federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal authorities.

The Premier's openness to trilateral discussions signals a potential breakthrough in addressing the longstanding issues surrounding municipal funding.

SUMA President Randy Goulden said in response to the Premier's comments, "It gives me hope. "I can go to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and say ‘our Premier’s on board.’ I can talk about that to our other associations across Canada and they can go and say to their provincial and territorial governments ‘Saskatchewan is on board," Goulden added. She continued to add, "hopefully, that is going to get our national government, our federal government, on board because those conversations have to happen.”

Earlier in the morning, Scott Pearce, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, emphasized the urgent need for a new fiscal framework for municipalities, asserting that it must be a top priority. "As our economy grows, so should our investment into our municipalities," Pearce stressed, underlining the crucial role of local governments in fostering economic development and community well-being.

Highlighting the financial strain on municipalities, Pearce expressed concern over the cost burden associated with new housing developments. "Municipalities can't afford $107,000 every time a new home is built. It could drive municipalities into bankruptcy," he warned.

Research commissioned by FCM revealed that, on average nationwide, the cost of municipal infrastructure necessary to support new housing is approximately $107,000 per home.

With a touch of humour, Pearce quipped, "The lower levels of governments need to come to the table to work with us," emphasizing the necessity for collaboration among all tiers of government.

Throughout the past year, Pearce has emerged as a staunch advocate for municipal governments, championing their status as the "government of proximity" and stressing their essential role in directly serving Canadians on a day-to-day basis.

While the path forward remains uncertain, Premier Moe now becomes the first western premier willing to engage in dialogue which may offer a glimmer of hope for municipalities seeking greater stability and support in their endeavours to serve their communities.


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