ESTEVAN - Estevan city council was well-represented at the recent convention of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.
All seven members of council were at the gathering that was held from April 3-6 in Regina. They spent four days listening to speeches from provincial leaders, networking, attending presentations and discussing topics pertinent to communities.
Mayor Roy Ludwig said it was nice to get together for the first time in two years, although some were a little hesitant to meet in person due to lingering concerns about COVID-19.
The Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency was a focal point. There were sessions on assessments and appeals, with the link between SAMA and communities.
“We’ve had a long relationship with SAMA, and there are certain things that we would like changed,” said Ludwig.
Those who attended the convention passed a resolution calling for reassessment to occur on a two-year cycle instead of four, and it will be up to the provincial government to decide the next step.
“SAMA would have to hire more people, but when you have reassessment on a two-year cycle, it’s more timely, and when you have a boom or a bust situation, if things are going up you can catch it quicker in a two-year cycle over a four-year (cycle), and then by the same token, if the economy’s going down, it’s the same thing,” said Ludwig.
Also discussed was the timing of the provincial and civic elections. The 2020 provincial election was held in late October, pushing the civic election back two weeks from its traditional date. A large snowstorm struck much of the province the day before the November 2020 civic election, making it difficult to reach polling stations in some communities and forcing others, including Saskatoon, to push their vote back.
Ludwig noted that a lot of smaller communities would like their election in the fall and cities want it in the spring.
“We could have the smaller communities in the fall if they wanted, because the northern communities are at a different time, and then have the cities in the spring,” said Ludwig.
Among the other topics for resolutions were property sub-classes; public sector accounting standards; emergency vehicle lights; cleanup of abandoned hydrocarbon sites; removal of administration fees for funding grants; disposal of asbestos and demolition debris; support for the public library system; enhanced policing agreements; applying the carbon tax on municipally-owned recreation and culture facilities; healthcare recruitment and retention; protective groundwater supply; taxes for provincial parks; appointing elders to councils; and costs associated with the RCMP.
Ludwig noted the most contentious was a motion to reduce speed limits to 40 kilometres per hour when passing emergency vehicles, but it eventually passed.
Education sessions focused on reconciliation and understanding challenges facing Indigenous communities, creating safe communities through collaboration, project governance, mental health and addictions, emergency planning and building smart communities.
They also had sector meetings in which city council representatives met with other officials from across the province.
They heard from Premier Scott Moe, outgoing NDP leader Ryan Meili, and from former Edmonton mayor Don Iveson. SUMA elected its executive for this year. Yorkton City Councillor Randy Goulden is the new president.
The convention concluded with the annual bear pit session, in which the delegates could meet with various provincial government ministers to discuss issues related to their community.
Last year’s convention was held virtually, so this marked the first time that Councillors Lindsay Clark, Rebecca Foord, Tony Sernick and Kirsten Walliser have been able to attend in person, as they were all elected to council for the first time in the 2020 civic election.