Courtenay Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton and CVRD Area A director Daniel Arbour spent much of last week in Ottawa as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Advocacy Days. The annual event allows municipal representatives from across Canada to speak with members of parliament (MPs) and Cabinet about priorities and programs important to local government.
Cole-Hamilton reports progress on FCM’s call for the federal government to cover retroactive costs for RCMP wage increases. While it was Ottawa that negotiated the agreement on back pay, the bill was handed to local governments to pay.
“These costs represent hundreds of thousands of dollars to a municipality like Courtenay,” said Cole-Hamilton. “I was pleased to hear Minister Dominic Leblanc acknowledge that local governments should not be stuck with this bill, since we were not involved in the collective bargaining.”
For his part, Arbour, who chairs the FCM Municipal Infrastructure and Transportation committee, is optimistic that the renewal of two key funding programs - the Canada Community Building Fund, and the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Partnership (ICIP) - is on track as multi-year agreements are set to expire.
“These are core funding programs that help all local governments complete infrastructure projects” Arbour said. “In the Comox Valley, the ICIP program, which is jointly funded by Ottawa and the provinces, provided $62.8 million to the Comox Valley Water Treatment Plant, in addition to contributions to other projects in Cumberland and Denman Island. We also have a multi-million dollar application for the South Sewer Extension project in partnership with K’omoks First Nation, and there is no doubt that without provincial and federal contributions these projects would be very challenging to complete.”
At the event, the federal government announced a further $530 million investment in FCM’s Green Municipal Fund, which will support local governments’ climate adaptation and preparedness projects across the country. Arbour says these funds could help better plan for increasing droughts and possible impacts on drinking watersheds. Cole-Hamilton notes future projects could include ways to mitigate flooding risks in the Puntledge/Courtenay River corridor or along the shores of Comox Bay.
“To address these important local priorities, we need the federal government to understand our needs and invest in our communities. FCM ensures that local voices are heard at the highest levels,” Cole-Hamilton said.