AMM says no to Non-Cities Caucus

The Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain says a Non-Cities Caucus would better represent rural issues on the AMM, but the western membership was not convinced when the issue went to vote

Western members of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) have put the brakes on a proposed Non-Cities Caucus, which would gather rural municipalities to discuss common concerns.

The group would have matched the existing Cities Caucus, which meets to discuss urban priorities.

The resolution, sponsored by the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain, was narrowly defeated at a June 15 AMM district meeting and will not be presented to the membership at large at the AMM fall convention.

Rick Pauls, mayor for the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain, argued that creating a Non-Cities Caucus was logical to ensure rural needs are heard when the AMM engages with government.

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“We wanted to make sure that us as rural municipalities didn’t lose our voice,” Pauls said. “We thought it was the beginning of a slippery slope.”

Pauls said he was disappointed with the results of the vote, but was also pleased by the tight count.

“It was close enough that, just eyeballing it up, they couldn’t tell which way it was going to go and I think that sent some message back down to the AMM board that, ‘Wow, OK, there are some things (here),’” he said.

Exact vote count numbers were unavailable at the time of printing. The resolution was the only one presented June 15 to require a vote-by-vote count, rather than obtaining a sweeping consensus.

AMM executive director Joe Masi said that the Cities Caucus has been in place for several years and is an informal group that cannot put forward resolutions or have special status on the board.

“We had a good debate about it,” he said. “I think the message it sends to us is that we want to make sure that all of our members are represented and feel represented. I think it was a good exchange of information, just explaining what the Cities Caucus was.

“At the end, I think our members voted by defeating it to say, ‘We understand better what the function and the role of the Cities Caucus are and we’re comfortable with it as long as you can continue to ensure that those issues that affect all of us are pushed and lobbied for,’” he added.

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest was among those to speak against the proposal. Chrest argued that many issues discussed in the Cities Caucus, like the presence of app-centred transport company Uber, are specific to urban areas.

Pauls disagrees with that argument.

“Things like Uber, things like printing their own tax notices, some of those things that they talk about — that affects us rurally here as well,” he said. “When they’re talking about how to deal with Uber, we would like to join in on those discussions because Uber isn’t just an urban thing; it’s a rural thing too and we would like to get involved in places like Uber because we don’t have bus service in rural places anymore.

“We would actually encourage Uber-type things to come into our regions so that we have other modes of transportation for people who maybe don’t have their own vehicle or access to public transportation out here… I thought that it was kind of almost talking down to us: ‘Well, our issues are different than yours,’ and that doesn’t always hold water.”

Pauls stressed that he would like rural areas equally involved alongside any concerned urban municipalities when these issues come up with government.

Critics also argued that a Non-Cities Caucus would divide the AMM.

Chrest did not respond to requests for an interview.

While the resolution was defeated, Pauls says the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain will likely bring the issue up again unless changes are made to the structure and operation of the Cities Caucus.

He has been invited to the next Cities Caucus meeting, and is encouraging his fellow rural AMM delegates to also attend.

AMM district meetings were held throughout June. Successful resolutions will appear before the full AMM membership Nov. 27-29 in Brandon.

About the author

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Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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