All six members of Estevan City Council were in Regina for this year's Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention from February 2 to 5.
Mayor Roy Ludwig and Councillors Lori Carr, Greg Hoffort, Brian Johnson, Dennis Moore and Kevin Smith spent four days attending sessions, listening to speeches and discussing issues that currently affect Saskatchewan municipalities.
Infrastructure and housing were the biggest topics discussed by city delegates, Ludwig said.
“We're still patiently waiting on one program that the federal government will be coming out with as far as infrastructure,” said Ludwig. “We understand that there is a program, but we still don't know what it is and what it means for the cities.”
Many Saskatchewan cities are facing housing crunches, Ludwig said. While most don't have a vacancy rate as low as Estevan's, they still struggle with having enough rental properties and affordable housing units for residents.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities was among the groups to address the housing shortage at the convention.
Several resolutions passed by SUMA delegates could have an impact on Estevan. One is that urban and rural municipalities who contribute to health care projects should be able to claim the GST on their contributions; currently they cannot.
Railway safety was also a big issue following last year's train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.
“SUMA, with the cooperation of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, will lobby the federal minister of Transport, and Transport Canada, to improve the regulation and enforcement of rail safety standards, and operational limits that may directly impact public safety,” said Ludwig.
Municipalities want to be informed when dangerous goods are passing through the community, and the nature of those materials.
Also during SUMA, the provincial government announced $500,000 for communities to implement or improve multi-material recycling programs. Ludwig said the City is waiting to find out the impact that it will have on Estevan.
Premier Brad Wall gave his annual address on February 3, and hinted at a possible increase for the education portion of property tax. Ludwig said he didn't hear much discussion about the issue from delegates.
“I think they're all thinking that over, and what it will mean for each town, village and city, and how much it would be,” said Ludwig.
The convention wrapped up with an awards banquet on February 4, and the annual bear pit session for SUMA delegates and provincial cabinet ministers on February 5.