Statement by the Chair of FCM’s Rural Forum Ray Orb following the Rural Town Hall (04/06/2016)
"Recognizing the importance of rural priorities amongst the 1,600 municipal leaders gathered in Winnipeg, a two-hour policy discussion was held on the role of rural communities to Canada's economic, social and sustainability goals. This crucial role, and the strength of the partnership between our municipalities and the federal government, was driven home by the significant investments outlined in the 2016 federal budget. The dedicated funds for clean water, wastewater, asset management, broadband, and recreation projects in the first phase of the ten year plan will allow us to move ahead quickly with these important projects. Ottawa's decision to increase the federal contribution to these projects up to 50 per cent will also provide an important boost for our rural communities that cannot rely on a large population base.
I particularly want to thank the Chair of the House of Commons Finance Committee Wayne Easter for participating in our policy discussion on the importance of investing in our communities. As an MP from P.E.I. representing a riding that is home to many rural communities, it was clear that Mr. Easter understands the unique challenges and opportunities confronting rural Canada and we welcome his commitment to work with FCM and its members going forward.
Federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi was in Winnipeg for our weekend conference and sat down with our Rural Forum the day before our Town Hall to kick-start federal-municipal consultations for Phase-2 of the budget's infrastructure plans. Minister Sohi discussed how we can work together to transform the bold vision outlined in those budget plans into reality for all Canadians. For rural Canada, this means an expanded Small Communities Fund to build and repair the roads, bridges, water infrastructure, and core economic infrastructure our residents rely on every day. We are also working to ensure that green infrastructure funding is geared toward climate change mitigation, disaster mitigation, and the needs of our smaller communities.
The needs of Canada's municipalities vary widely from coast, to coast, to coast. The priorities and capacities of smaller and rural municipalities are vastly different from those of our urban centres. That is why we are working to ensure that phase-2 of the infrastructure plan includes flexible, predictable, and sustainable funding models such as the tried and true Gas Tax Fund.
Rural municipalities make a vital contribution to Canada's economic development. We know that these communities are home to a third of Canada's population and generate 30 per cent of the country's economic output, and it's even greater in my home province of Saskatchewan. We look forward to continuing our work with federal partners, including Wayne Easter and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, on the important task of building this great nation one community at a time."