Local delegates said lots of good info at SUMA convention

April 22, 2024, 10:42 am
Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


Every year, municipalities large and small send representatives to meet with their colleagues across the province in one place—the annual convention of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association. This year’s edition, themed Refresh, Renew, Refocus, saw an estimated 900 delegates descend upon Regina between April 14-17 to shape policy, network and be inspired by interesting speakers—including the infamous bear pit with Premier Scott Moe and his ministers.

“It was really good; informative. I learned lots during the day and had lots of visiting and making connections in the evenings,” said Tricia Pickard, CAO for the Town of Redvers. “The biggest thing is a lot of times, you feel alone in your battles or issues or different things that come about, but then when you go there, you’re like, ‘oh, okay, like this is kind of across the province’.”

This year noted 11 resolutions, included two regarding funding for fire departments. The first resolution specifically cited infrastructure dollars with the resulting resolution see SUMA advocate both the provincial and federal governments to include firefighting infrastructure (buildings and equipment) as eligible for grants, or to create a separate funding stream for firefighting infrastructure entirely.

The second resolution will have SUMA advocate the same government levels for increased financial support for fire services provisions in Saskatchewan.

According to Esterhazy Mayor Grant Forster, the resolutions were more of a formality; that it would be obvious they’d all be passed.

“To me anyway, resolutions were softball - very minor kind of concerns, nothing of any of any real controversy or anything like that,” he said.

One big bonus was an increase to municipal revenue sharing, which Moosomin Town Councillor Chris Davidson noted.

“They did increase the revenue sharing, we are going to see, I think our administrator said about $90,000 more than we have had in the previous year,” he said of the unrestricted funds which municipalities can use to address a variety of needs.

“There was a lot of talk about the PST on construction.” Said Pickard of another item of interest to her. “So we never used to pay PST on construction, but now we have to and so when you’re doing multimillion dollar projects, the PST that we have to pay to the government is quite substantial. so SUMA has been advocating to have that change.”

Davidson also pointed out a structural change within SUMA, favouring a caucus model for their governance. The change would mean halving the number of directors to seven.

“So that was a little bit different, then quite a bit of debate on positives and negatives around that,” he explained. “They had a motion that they wanted to elect the president from within the directors and the membership shot that down.”

In recent years, the convention has been shifted from winter to spring. Having the convention in April falls after the provincial budget announcement, taking somewhat of the thunder out of provincial government announcements.

“Ever since they moved us to April from February, it kind of takes away a bit of the magic of the expectation part of it; getting something from the province because the budget has already already come down and everything else,” Forster said. “So there’s really nothing for Moe to announce during the convention. He still had a great address on Monday, to me, he’s an excellent speaker and I enjoy listening to him.”

Pickard agreed that hearing from the provincial government was a highlight as well.

“It was really cool to have, like the bear pit session on Wednesday morning—it’s always really interesting, because you have premier Moe and then all his Cabinet members,” she said. “There was a lot of talk about highways and different budgets with that.”

Even though it does mean time and some expense for members of council and staff to attend SUMA, they do see the value in meeting with peers from around the province.

“It gets to be a bit of an expense, but I think certainly the networking and then learning a few things they had a good lineup of speakers there this year, and sometimes that is a little lacking,” Davidson said.

Forster echoed the importance of networking, having made a couple key connections during this year’s convention.

“We had a meeting with our counterparts in Rosthern regarding their hospital,” he explained. “They were announced the same time we were, and some of the concerns that we have, and things we’d like to see happen quicker.”

Another important connection for the Esterhazy crew was with Metercorp, a business the town in interested in working with regarding their municipal water meter reading system. In fact, their initial connection was made at a previous SUMA convention, and the two entities continued talking.

“We had that on Monday, and really good meeting with them.” Forster said. “They gave us their final sales pitch in terms of what they can offer us and what we would need to make a decision.”

Pickard also noting having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the street sweeping company that Redvers contracts, having the ability to bounce additional ideas off them.