Paintearth County: Trudeau not well received at municipalities conference

Paintearth county councillors discussed included the council members’ impressions of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference at their June 18 regular council meeting June 18, 2024.

The conference held from June 6 – 9 in Calgary, Alta. saw attendance from council and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) along with approximately 3000 other participants.

In a report about the event, CAO Michael Simpson highlighted Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech.  In it, Trudeau criticized the provincial government’s support for municipalities, advocated for renewable energy and defended the carbon tax as essential for funding renewable developments and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

“He seems to be talking out both sides, both wanting to show up for the municipality, but blaming the province,” observed CAO Simpson.

The report touched on Trudeau’s remarks about the carbon tax, Bill 18 and housing with Trudeau emphasizing that most families would receive more in carbon tax rebates than they paid for in carbon-taxed goods like fuel and natural gas.

“He flies to France with about 50 people to talk for 30 minutes, takes 15 minutes of questions – none of which he answers – and then flies back, all at the taxpayer’s expense” noted Coun. Vockeroth.

Coun. Wiart agreed “what about his carbon emissions?”

Trudeau defended the federal government’s authority to engage directly with municipalities under Section 91 of the Constitution Act 1867, while criticizing Alberta’s Bill 18 for adding bureaucratic hurdles by requiring provincial approval for federal agreements.

Simpson noted that Trudeau did not address the constitutional provision under Section 92 that places municipal matters under provincial jurisdiction, which supports the legitimacy of Bill 18.

Simpson also noted that the bill is unlikely to affect Paintearth County’s agreements with the federal government for the Battle River Economic Opportunity Committee (BREOC) funding or their participation in the Coal Community Transition Infrastructure Fund (CCTI), which funds the $2.3M Crowfoot forcemain and sanitary sewer project.

The federal government’s interpretation of provincial jurisdiction within the constitution was generally reflected in the sentiment at the conference, Simpson noted. “Personally I think he is on the wrong side of the Constitutional Act.”

Several council members noted the strong representation of the Liberal, NDP and Green parties at the convention, but pointed out a noticeable absence of Conservative representation.

Reeve Stan Schulmeister explained that Premier Danielle Smith was in Calgary and had expressed a desire to attend but the convention organizers did not permit any Conservatives to participate.

Council members expressed their dismay that the premier of the hosting province was not allowed to speak, agreeing that something was not quite right.  CAO Simpson shared this sentiment, expressing his disappointment that the Conservatives were excluded from a conference that featured many representatives from the eastern provinces.

The report also highlighted that Trudeau mentioned his introduction of a $400 million dollar Housing Accelerator Fund aimed at creating affordable housing, but faced criticism for not adequately explaining why some small urban communities in Ontario had their applications denied.

CAO Simpson noted that Coronation was still working on their application for the fund, with Paintearth County closely monitoring, as housing is a critical need.

Attendees were puzzled by Trudeau’s apparent reversal on federal responsibility for housing, which he had downplayed as “not a primary federal responsibility,” in an August 2023 CBC interview, yet claimed leadership at the conference.

“Trudeau ‘circles the drain’ but never answered a question directly,” observed Coun. Wiart.

Coun. Vockeroth agreed, mentioning that most people he spoke with at the conference felt that Trudeau often talked in circles and frequently made promises he didn’t keep.

CAO Simpson noted that despite Trudeau’s promises of a budding relationship with municipalities there was not much applause in the convention centre during his speech.

Coun. Vockeroth shared that he had spoken with numerous individuals and mayors from Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba and had not encountered anyone with positive remarks about Trudeau.

“I don’t know how Justin Trudeau got in,” he remarked.

Simpson’s report noted that it might have been attributed to the tension of having a large armed presence in the building, including plain-clothes security, RCMP, personnel in military fatigues, police dogs and an envoy of heavily armoured vehicles outside.

“The armed presence, ‘while perhaps appropriate for a Liberal prime minister visiting Calgary, sent a true message as to the measure of trust between the Prime Minister and the voting public.”

“It goes to show that federal party leaders really don’t have a strong connection to what is happening in Alberta,” stated CAO Simpson.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May “was a breath of fresh air,” in her speech calling for modernizing the Constitution Act 1867 and suggesting a lateral council of governments similar to Australia’s system.

May’s remark that Premier Smith made her nostalgic for Ralph Klein’s leadership drew laughs, even from Conservatives.

“At least you know where she stands,” commented Coun. George Glazier with the council agreeing that they liked her speech.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh emphasized cooperation in his speech, urging higher levels of government to support municipalities rather than blame them for housing issues. He highlighted the need for proper infrastructure to support housing growth, aligning with Trudeau’s advocacy for the Housing Accelerator Fund.

CAO Simpson summarized the conference by noting the strong eastern representation and expressed that it would have been beneficial to have Conservative voices at a conference held in Calgary.

“It had a Liberal flavour, not just in the party but in their way of thinking,” Simpson said, adding, “Welcome to Alberta.  It’s different out here.”

Cheryl Bowman
Multimedia reporter
ECA review

About the author

Cheryl Bowman

Cheryl spent most of her childhood in Stettler, growing up on a quarter section north of town. After graduating from Stettler Composite High School she moved to Calgary where she worked in various industries, attended The University of Calgary and raised a family.

She enjoyed volunteering and contributed in a variety of ways, such as writing articles for the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and covering charitable events as a photographer.

She moved back to Stettler in 2023 where she still has family.