YORKTON -Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley said attending FCM’s Annual Conference and Trade Show held in Regina earlier this month was eye-opening.
“I was surprised,” he told Yorkton This Week, explaining he went because the event was too close not to in his role as mayor, but the scale of the conference was far larger than he had anticipated.
“There were 2200 attending and 140 booths. There were people from Victoria, B.C. to St. John’s, NFLD,” he said.
And while delegates came from across the country, when they had a chance to talk to each other – and they were eager to do so – there were a lot of commonalties in terms of issues being faced.
For example, communities coast-to-coast are having a difficult time keeping up with road, sidewalk, water and sewer lines upgrades and replacement, said Hippsley.
“Infrastructure is huge,” he said, adding for many there was a sort of resignation they could not keep up. “. . . Everybody does band-aid solutions, it’s all the money they’ve got . . . It’s a major problem.”
And while the event attracted people from across the country all facing infrastructure issues, Hippsley said he also did not hear alternative solutions to the problem.
That said, Hippsley said one message that was clear was that if you want to access grant dollars from the upper governments, you need to be prepared and that means having relevant data at your fingertips.
“Whoever gathers the data quickest wins,” he said, adding it comes down to having projects planned and ‘shovel-ready’.
While infrastructure is huge, Hippsley said other issues were certainly discussed.
One concern is housing.
Houses are being seen increasingly as an investment which offers a good return, but that is pricing homes out of the reach of many, said Hippsley.
There was also many who pointed to climate change as a growing issue which will impact municipalities.
“Climate change is huge,” said Hippsley. He said increasingly municipalities will need to consider what changing climate may mean to developments down the road. It is something Council will need to think about more moving forward.
“Climate change is real. We need to recognize that and be proactive.”
There were also concerns communities may become more and more isolated as transportation between communities has changed as bus services have disappeared, and owning vehicles is not always reasonable.
While the list of concerns was long, Hippsley said there was also a definite level of optimism too.
“It was really nice to see the optimism,” he said, adding there was a belief that while COVID-19 was a challenge “we’ve risen above it.”