Moving rural and northern issues up the federal agenda (23/11/2016)
FCM President Clark Somerville and FCM Rural Forum Chair Ray Orb issued the following statement today after hosting a meeting in Ottawa with Mike Bossio, MP (Hastings-Lennox and Addington) and Chair of the Liberal Party of Canada's National Rural Caucus.
Members of FCM's Rural Forum are encouraged by today's productive dialogue in Ottawa with Mike Bossio. As Chair of the federal Liberals' National Rural Caucus, Mr. Bossio has shown himself to be a strong partner in our efforts to strengthen Canada's rural, northern and remote communities - communities vital to Canada's social, cultural and economic future.
Phase 2 of the federal infrastructure plan is an unprecedented opportunity to foster growth and a higher quality of life across Canada. In September, the Rural Forum endorsed a plan to ensure Phase 2 works for communities of all sizes. Earlier this month, the Fall Economic Statement responded with new, dedicated investments for rural and northern priorities.
Our conversation today focused on getting the funding mechanisms right for Phase 2. Investment will need to support the broad range of capital priorities of less populated areas - including roads and bridges, water and wastewater treatment, septic system upgrades and the full range of transportation and mobility needs in rural areas.
MPs representing rural areas clearly recognize that local governments struggle to expand public infrastructure with limited fiscal capacity. The federal government can adapt to these challenges by avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach in Phase 2. This includes working with municipalities and our provincial and territorial partners to provide enough program flexibility to respond to local realities. And it will require a transparent, predictable and manageable funding process.
With Phase 2 design details expected no later than Budget 2017, members of FCM's Rural Forum look forward to continuing our dialogue with Mr. Bossio and his government colleagues. For the millions of Canadians who live in rural, northern and remote communities, significant quality-of-life improvements may be just around the corner.
Clark Somerville is President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and a local/regional councillor for the Town of Halton Hills and Halton Region. Ray Orb is Chair of FCM's Rural Forum, President of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and Reeve for the Municipality of Cupar. FCM is the national voice of local government, with nearly 2,000 members representing 90 per cent of Canada's population.