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OPINION: Reconnecting for a Better Tomorrow

St. John's Deputy Mayor Sheliagh O'Leary , MNL President Amy Coady, Torbay Councillor Trina Appleby, Labrador West Mayor Belinda Adams and Labrador West Councillor Kim Hartery

For weeks, the anticipation had been building. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) was set to convene in Calgary, Alberta, bringing together municipal leaders from every corner of the nation.

From the largest urban centers to the smallest rural communities, these leaders gather annually to discuss pressing issues and chart a path forward for the next twelve months. Yet, as the first day unfolded, it became clear that Thursday was about something far more fundamental: reconnecting.

Delegates Taking in the Opening Session of the 2024 FCM Tradeshow

The Telus Convention Centre in the heart of Calgary was abuzz with excitement and camaraderie. Municipal leaders from diverse backgrounds and regions greeted one another with genuine warmth. The air was filled with heartfelt reunions, as friends embraced friends, colleagues reconnected, and new municipal relationships began to form.

Expressions of joy and relief echoed through the halls. "I'm glad you made it," "I haven't seen you in forever," and my personal favourite was one exchange overheard between two Ontario municipal leaders, "It's finally great to meet in person!" This is the beauty of the FCM conference. It’s a rare opportunity for municipal leaders to let their hair down and work collaboratively towards common goals.

While the issues each municipality faces are unique, many of them share striking similarities. During my time in municipal administration, I often heard the saying, "Municipalities work together by stealing the best ideas from other municipalities." Whether it's a bylaw, a policy, an event, or even the way work gets done, municipalities thrive when they share best practices and learn from one another.

This four-day conference, officially kicking off today with speeches and workshops, offers a wealth of opportunities for learning and collaboration. Municipal leaders, who may not have the resources or budget to implement innovative ideas on their own, can gain invaluable insights from their peers who have successfully navigated similar challenges. The convention halls will be alive with side conversations and tradeshow interactions, where the exchange of ideas will flourish.

Torquay Mayor Mike Strachan, SUMA CEO Jean Marc Nadeau, and Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers

By the end of the conference, municipal leaders will return to their communities with a deeper understanding of the larger picture. They will have potential solutions to address their local needs and, perhaps most importantly, they will have forged new friendships.

The FCM conference represents a unique fraternity of municipal leaders, all working towards the betterment of what I believe is the best level of government in Canada. Municipal governments are closest to the people - and to quote outgoing FCM President Scott Pearce "The Government of Proximity," - directly impacting citizens' daily lives through services such as waste management, local infrastructure, and community programs. The collaborative spirit of the FCM conference strengthens this vital link, empowering municipalities to better serve their residents.

This annual conference is a reminder that while the challenges are many for municipalities, so too are the opportunities. By working together, municipalities can learn from each other, adopt best practices, and create a brighter future for all Canadians. As the conference continues, I certainly look forward to more insightful discussions, innovative solutions, and a deeper strengthening of bonds that will help shape the future of our towns and cities from Tofino to Torbay, and Inuvik to Amherstburg.


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