With a federal budget on the way, municipal and federal leaders gathered in Leduc County, Alberta, on February 10 to explore solutions to the economic uncertainty facing many western communities, from market access to energy and climate policies, economic development and local infrastructure. The full-day summit was convened by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Western Economic Solutions Taskforce (WEST).
“Western municipal leaders are on the front lines of economic challenges,” said Randy Goulden, Yorkton, SK city councillor and chair of WEST. “We see people in our communities losing their livelihoods and their hopes for the future, so today we’re digging deeper to identify solutions that will make a difference.”
WEST was launched in the wake of the 2019 federal election to ensure the priorities of western communities are clearly heard in Ottawa. The taskforce unites rural and urban municipal leaders from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. WEST is exploring a full range of economic solutions—both to fuel recommendations to the federal government and to share among municipalities from coast to coast to coast.
“Municipalities are uniquely positioned to bring the local voice to the federal government,” said Goulden. “Through FCM, the task force is convening an important discussion that cuts through the divisive issues to reach the solutions that will matter most to our communities.”
Today’s summit featured direct dialogue with a series of senior federal decision-makers—including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly, and opposition Members of Parliament. WEST took the opportunity to share recommendations for the upcoming federal budget that would have an immediate impact in western communities, including:
Creating a program to support faster reclamation of abandoned oil and gas wells alongside efforts to address the regulatory environment and industry liability;
Compensating farmers for the cost of federal carbon pricing on grain drying through a rebate or similar mechanism; and
Urgently implementing the Infrastructure Minister’s mandate letter commitment to create a new infrastructure fund for communities in oil and gas regions.
“Municipal leaders are problem solvers, and we moved forward today on identifying immediate, practical next steps to support western communities,” said Goulden. “At the same time, we’re determined to continue our federal-municipal conversation on long-term solutions—putting communities at the center of efforts to achieve Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.”