Mayor Clark in Ottawa for Western Economic Solutions Task Force;
Meets with Prime Minister Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland
Mayor Charlie Clark was in Ottawa yesterday for the first meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities – Western Economic Solutions Task Force (WEST). While there, he also participated in a roundtable meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and municipal leaders from across the country.
“The meeting with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister was an important opportunity to have a frank discussion about how they are understanding the challenges the West is facing right now, how they intend to tackle them, and what the next steps of this government will be in their first 100 days,” said Mayor Clark.
The conversation included discussion of:
- Challenges being faced in communities across Western Canada about economic uncertainty. Trade disputes, rail backlogs, low commodity prices and regulatory uncertainty are leaving communities wondering about what the future holds and leaving many families and companies in financial distress.
- How all three levels of government need to work together, identify common ground, get results on some of the key issues above and communicate progress that addresses the uncertainty people are facing.
- The next phase of infrastructure funding and how to get dollars flowing to communities faster. In the case of Saskatoon, it is very important to unlock the transit funding needed to move the Bus Rapid Transit project ahead as well as other key infrastructure, culture and recreational projects.
- The rollout of the National Housing Strategy and the programs being proposed by the Government to stimulate more housing projects and opportunities.
- The next phase of the federal climate change work and the desire of the federal government to see applications come forward for their $1 billion for climate funding, as well as their upcoming strategy to provide interest-free loans for energy retrofits. This aligns well with progress being made in Saskatoon on our own sustainability and climate change mitigation work.
- Strategies to work with rural communities to expand broadband internet access, address costs of living, and the need to build opportunities to diversify economies.
After meeting with Trudeau and Freeland, Mayor Clark sat down for the first face-to-face meeting of the Western Economic Solutions Task Force.
This Task Force was brought together by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and is made up of municipal leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Saskatchewan delegation includes Mayor Clark as the WEST Urban Vice-Chair, Yorkton City Councillor Randy Goulden as WEST Chair, Councillor Darren Hill as Third VP of FCM, Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, SARM president Ray Orb and SUMA President Gordon Barnhart.
“Given the growing sense of anger and polarization facing our country right now, this Task Force is an important opportunity to create a forum for local leaders from both rural communities and cities across these provinces to build a shared understanding of the specific economic challenges we are facing in the West,” said Clark.
Building on the perspectives of rural and urban communities, the task force will seek consensus around key policies and strategies for federal and provincial governments that support communities to succeed. Examples include how to break down barriers for getting western products to market and how to handle the tension between energy development and addressing climate change policy challenges.
Mayor Clark believes bringing rural and urban voices together is one of the most important features of this Task Force. The federal election showed many divides that exist within our country, so having a forum like this to build understanding and move forward together is crucial.
The first steps of the WEST Task Force are to build a common understanding of the key issues affecting our communities right now, to start identifying action that can be taken to address them, and to build a strategy to ensure that our issues and ideas are communicated to the federal and provincial governments.
Mayor Clark will report back as progress is made.