Whistler politicians join counterparts for Halifax conference 

Mayor, four councillors from Whistler attend Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention

Four members of council, including Mayor Ken Melamed, were honing their skills at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) on the east coast this past weekend.

Almost 2,000 politicians gathered in Halifax for the four-day conference.

It was a valuable event and worth the $10,000 expenditure, said the mayor via conference call from Halifax Monday.

"I'm a huge believer in it," he said of the conference, which continues to grow, this year setting another attendance record.

"We've been very frugal in our conference policy. Our councillors... have very little discretion to go to conferences outside of UBCM (the Union of British Columbia Municipalities) and FCM. This is really training school."

Councillors Chris Quinlan, Tom Thomson and Grant Lamont also attended. The $10,000 budget covered travel, accommodation and conference fees for the four members of council and one staff member who represented and promoted Whistler to the delegates at the tradeshow.

Municipal CAO Bill Barratt was in Halifax before the FCM to attend the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA).

While most of the FCM event deals with high-level issues, the mayor said there were a number of interesting topics up for discussions including a session on community safety and crime prevention, a tour of Halifax's successful transit system, and a session on social media.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and a representative from the city of Regina both highlighted how Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become a common way to connect with people in those cities. They have, for example, GPS devices on their city snowplows so that residents can see in real time when the streets will be cleared.

"My thought was: we clear the snow so fast in Whistler you don't need to know where the plows are because they're all cleared by the time we get up in the morning!" said the mayor. "But I think there's a lot to learn."

Whistler has a Facebook site and the mayor has a Twitter account that he's just starting to get more comfortable using.

"Clearly it's a trend that is raising a lot of interest and is way for cities, especially the bigger cities with their populations, to connect with people," he said.

Federal party leaders also connected with the representatives from municipalities across the country, including Bob Rae, Jack Layton and Elizabeth May.

Noticeably absent, said Melamed, was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Unfortunately the Prime Minister... declined to show again, probably one of the least showings of a party in power at FCM, almost as if the FCM is an afterthought for them," he said.

Whistler hosted the CAMA and FCM delegates in 2009 and would like to host it again in the future. FCM remains the largest conference Whistler has ever hosted with an economic spin-off of approximately $6 million. The municipality has also hosted the UBCM on several occasions, most recently in 2010.





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