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Conference Review

CAMA & FCM Annual Conferences 2016

For a municipality to innovate, its administration and elected council must work together to engage the community, develop buy-in, and plan for the successful implementation of its proposed innovative solution to a local problem. Each year, the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) meet in the same region of Canada to share best practices, discuss emerging challenges, and learn from successful municipal innovations. Canada’s Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) gather first at the CAMA conference, attending workshops and plenaries designed for the administrative leaders of Canada’s municipalities, both large and small. The CAMA conference is succeeded by the meeting of Canada’s mayors and city councillors at the FCM Annual Conference, which includes keynotes from federal party leaders and concurrent workshops addressing the most pressing municipal challenges.

This year, the administrative and political leaders of Canada’s municipalities gathered in the geographic centre of North America: Winnipeg. Public Sector Digest attended both conferences to gather the strategies, successes, failures, and insights that were shared between CAOs and municipal politicians in Manitoba’s capital.



The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators Annual Conference convened in Winnipeg from May 30th to June 1st, 2016. In an event that focused on the Resiliency of the CAO, over 300 Chief Administrative Officers, senior municipal managers, and staff members from across Canada gathered to learn and inspire.

To open the conference, Jim Ludlow, President of True North Development and a proud Winnipegger, drew on history to describe the psyche, optimism, and resiliency of Winnipeg. A thriving cultural and business center after World War II, Winnipeg continues to be committed to the arts, entrepreneurship, sports, and entertainment. Ludlow asserted that cities must be attractive to people, offering affordability, liveability, clean streets, and culture. True North’s recent development in the city’s burgeoning downtown core offers just that. True North Square, a mixed-use, 4 tower development, aims to create a sense of place, offering a central location for people to work, live, and socialize. True North Development asks “Why not Winnipeg?” in its commitment to investing in the city, and invited delegates to do the same. 


Introduction of CAMA’s CAO Performance Evaluation Toolkit

CAO performance evaluation with elected officials can be a challenging process. After gathering opinions from a wide audience, Janice Baker, CAO of Mississauga, and her team of CAMA committee members found that there was a tremendous level of agreement between both CAOs and elected officials that the evaluation process of CAOs needed to be improved. Baker discussed how she and her committee set out to address the ways evaluations are conducted, resulting in the creation of the CAO Performance Evaluation Toolkit. While still in its first phase, Baker described the Toolkit as having the ability to “empower you with a process that you can use to sell to your elected officials.” Included in the Toolkit are performance evaluation strategies, templates, and even email drafts to send to elected officials to make them aware of these tools. For elected officials, Baker believes that the Toolkit “serves to inform them of the value of CAO performance conversations.” Municipal administrators left this session with knowledge of an available tool to help them build a more well-rounded performance evaluation process with elected officials. 


The Role of Local Government in a Sustainable World

The structure and function of local government varies widely across the world’s nations, but what nearly all municipalities have in common is the great challenge of adapting to rapid change. In this panel session, representatives from four commonwealth countries described the unique challenges facing local governments in their respective jurisdictions, as well as the innovative solutions being implemented to address those challenges and achieve sustainability. Don MacLellan, President of CAMA and the General Manager of Community Safety Services for Moncton New Brunswick, kicked off the session with an overview of the role of local governments in Canada. Municipalities are creatures of the province in Canada, limiting their ability to generate new revenue, thereby hampering fiscal sustainability. According to MacLellan, there are six key strategies Canadian municipalities are employing to achieve sustainability despite their fiscal limitations: 

  1. Develop a strong strategic plan to guide staff and keep the organization focused on core goals
  2. Establish priorities with council and be sure to communicate those priorities clearly to staff and the public
  3. Constantly review service delivery and processes for new efficiencies
  4. Make resiliency a key element of all planning
  5. Pursue strategic partnerships to deliver services more efficiently and effectively
  6. Think outside of the box 


Ricki Bruhn with Local Government Professionals Australia, and CEO of the City of Palmerston, discussed the state of local governance down under. In Australia, 80 percent of all taxes raised goes to the federal government, 17 percent to state governments, and just 3 percent to local governments (compared to the 50/42/8 percent distribution across Canada’s federal, provincial/territorial, and local governments.) Bruhn echoed Don’s recommendation that forming new partnerships across governments and sectors will be required to achieve sustainability at the local level. Michael Ross, VP of the Society of Local Government Managers of New Zealand (SOLGM) explained that without state or territorial governments in New Zealand, local governments have been able to advocate directly and effectively to the central government: “We have good access to central government so we haven’t been inconvenienced by rate caps and significant budgetary reductions.” Despite strong relationships with central government, New Zealand’s communities still face the significant challenges of aging populations, skills shortages, failing infrastructure, and thorny amalgamations.

Closing the international panel, Calderdale Council’s Director of Communities and Service Support, Robin Tuddenham described the major budget cuts underway for local authorities across the UK. From 2010 to 2015, central government has reduced funding to local authorities by 37 percent as part of its national policy to deliver a smaller state. Under this new policy regime, local services are to be paid for by local taxes. Despite these significant budgetary constraints, 51 percent of UK senior council managers remain positive about the future of local authorities. Tuddenham shared 3 of the top innovation activities communities will look to engage in to become sustainable:

  1. Income generation (pooled budgets)
  2. Improving asset management
  3. Radical service redesign (digital innovation)


Retired CAO Panel

Retired CAOs have much to offer well after their service in local government concludes. In this plenary session, a panel of retired CAOs provided advice stemming from their own past experiences to the audience of municipal administrators. The panel agreed that having the right team in place was crucial to success. Gail Stephens, former City Manager of the City of Victoria, emphasized that “the most important asset you have as a city manager are the people who work for you.” Ernie Epp, former City Manager of Morden, MB highlighted the difficulties of acting as both CAO and emergency coordinator during a past community-wide fire outbreak, making it clear that you should “surround yourself with competent people to take care of other aspects.” When asked what skill sets are most useful for city managers, Patrick Woods, former City Manager of the City of Saint John, indicated the ability to pick talent: “Identify talent wherever it comes from, develop it, and surround yourself with those people who think well…that’s going to be the key to your success.”

The panel’s greatest career challenges included dealing with emergency situations and navigating their relationships with council. The panel also spoke of the difficulties of maintaining a work-life balance. Woods said that that “there is no 50/50” scenario, and sometimes emergencies have to be dealt with”, while Epp emphasized the ability “to determine what your worklife balance means to you... and then stick to it,” and “let council know what that is.” 

"The most important asset you have as a city manager are the people who work for you." - Gail Stephens


Ideas that Worked – Rapid Fire Innovation

In a fast-paced session, presenters shared projects and programs that are having positive results in their respective municipalities. Bob Ashley, CAO of Summerside, PEI described how the intermittency of wind energy poses a problem for the municipality. As a solution, Summerside stores energy generated when it’s windy to be dispatched in calmer periods to heat homes or water. To encourage participation in the program prices are lowered, while reducing the use of fossil fuels – a winwin for consumers and the municipality.

Ian McDougall, Commissioner of Community Services, discussed the Town of Newmarket’s Progressive Leadership Development Program. Employees at all levels are given professional development opportunities, in turn fostering creativity, effectiveness, and a culture of public service. Newmarket conducts an employee engagement survey every three years, which then informs organizational planning. Additionally, its Harvard ManageMentor program’s built-in Learning Café tool facilitates informal conversations between the CAO, Commissioners and the staff who participate. Ultimately, “professional development is not an event, but a day-to-day challenge to create conditions for professional development to thrive as part of an overall corporate culture” said McDougall. The City of North Battleford, SK turns sewer sludge into fertilizer. CAO Jim Puffalt described the city’s Biosolids Management Program implemented in 2014. Using technology developed by Lystek, Biosolids are converted into a commercial Canadian Food Inspection Agency registered fertilizer. Among the benefits are:

  • Low operational maintenance costs
  • Lower GHGs than chemical fertilizers
  • Pathogen free 

Cynthia Lulham, Councillor at the City of Westmount, QC, closed the session sharing the city’s recent replacement of its aging arena and pool with its new sports facility, the Westmount Recreation Centre (WRC). The largest project in the city’s 140 year history, the facility houses the world’s first underground ice rinks. The project was built using the design-build P3 approach, resulting in a building that is double the size of its predecessor but built into the topography creating a smaller visible footprint and 1 acre of new greenspace. LED lighting, underground rinks that reduce demands on the refrigeration system, and an electronic Zamboni are among the many tools used to run the environmentally friendly facility. 


Case study: Executing a P3 Infrastructure Project in Westmount


CAMA Provides Input into Canada’s Federal Funding Programs for Municipal Infrastructure

The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) provided a Position Paper and a series of administrative recommendations as input on Federal Funding Programs for Municipal Infrastructure.

Don MacLellan, President of CAMA and General Manager of Community Safety Services for the City of Moncton, NB, presented the Association’s formal position paper to Jeff Moore, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Canada on March 29th, 2016. This marks the second time the association has submitted a formal position paper regarding infrastructure to the Government of Canada.

“As the Federal Government is considering new infrastructure funding opportunities, it was important for CAMA to provide input on programs moving forward.” said Mr. MacLellan. “I was pleased to be able to deliver feedback from our members into Federal grant programs.”

CAMA presented sixteen priorities, which were identified by the association’s members as having a high importance from an administrative standpoint. These include:

  • Clear names for programs
  • Clear criteria
  • Clear definition of municipal infrastructure
  • Predictability of funding
  • Ease of application and reporting
  • Includes all costs
  • Removal of “stacking” provisions
  • Improved project cash flows
  • Advance funding
  • Long range funding for some projects
  • Flexibility
  • Absence of additional criteria from the provinces
  • Does not require replication of existing municipal checks and balances
  • Focus on municipal mandates
  • Includes all municipal infrastructure assets
  • Direct involvement by municipalities in program development and design

“As an association, CAMA strives to promote excellence in municipal administration in order to enhance the quality of municipal government and the services provided to Canadians,” said Mr. MacLellan. “By working with Infrastructure Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we are coming a step closer to addressing the important infrastructure issues facing municipalities today.”

In order to ensure that the position paper appropriately represented the opinions of its membership, CAMA formed a subcommittee to oversee the development of the paper. Research was carried out, surveys were conducted with members, and meetings were held with staff from Infrastructure Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

For more information about CAMA and the association’s position paper on Canada’s Federal Funding Programs for Municipal Infrastructure, please visit CAMA’s web site at:


The Emotional Resilience of City Managers

With 40 years of experience under his belt, Ron Carlee knows what it means to be adaptable. In his three years as City Manager of Charlotte, NC he has worked with five different mayors to date. Carlee spoke to delegates in a plenary session that emphasized the need for City Managers to not lose sight of their own wellbeing in a job that can be stressful and can require 24/7 service. He suggested that managers maintain their own resiliency – that is, their ability to bounce back – by living by the following points:

  • Bad things happen. Difficult events are inevitable, but we can control how we respond to them
  • It’s not personal. Managers tend to bear the brunt of discontent from council and the public. However, it’s rarely personal. It only becomes personal if we make it personal
  • It’s lonely at the top. Get a network of friends and family – or a “framily” – you can depend on as a support system
  • Be happy. Negativity, especially when coming from managers, can permeate an organization. However, people desire hope and optimism. Resilient managers recognize the positive things in life and consciously work towards being happy
  • Believe. Whether you’re religious or not, faith and strong personal values are key to resiliency


Emotional resiliency is not just about us: we owe it to ourselves, our organizations, and our communities. 


The NEXT BIG Things: Are You Future Ready?

Karen Thoreson, CEO of the Alliance for Innovation, presented CAMA delegates with the four mega forces to watch for in the years to come. With 44 trends split across four mega forces, the Alliance for Innovation has created a roadmap for municipal decision makers trying to make sense of the rapid changes that are effecting their respective communities. “We believe these trends will all happen, but they won’t happen equally to all people in all places” explained Thoreson. “This model lets each locality select the most meaningful trends for their communities to be aware of and to incorporate into planning.”


Those global fixed assets that we’re given – water, trees, fossil fuels – are changing before our eyes. We’re least able to manipulate this mega force, but it is closest to our survival. Climate change is the trend within the resources mega force that is changing communities around the globe most significantly. Many cities have made progress on implementing climate change programs and policies locally, but where they fall short is in partnering with industry and other levels of government for greater impact.


The fastest force to change is technology, always outpacing the ability for government to change with it. The Sharing Economy, as one technology trend, cuts out the middle man in transactions. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are forcing municipalities to make policy decisions on what restrictions to place on the Sharing Economy. “The time is now for your community to think about whether you’re going to embrace this technology or take the conservative approach, emphasizing the protection of local residents and businesses” stated Thoreson.


Ethnicity, migration, age, religion, and gender identity are just some of the shifting demographics that are changing our communities. The most significant trend is by far the “elder expense” with aging populations putting ever increasing pressure on retirement plans and community resources. According to Thoreson, however, the flexibility of the Canada Pension Plan renders it much more capable of adapting to an aging population than America’s Social Security. Thoreson also noted the importance of the increasingly nomadic workforce. Young people are now moving to the communities they want to live in, rather than where the work is. Municipalities must build welcoming dynamic communities to attract top mobile talent.


The fourth and final force that will shape our future communities is governance. “Trust in government becomes the bond you have with the people you serve” said Thoreson. Trust is vital to good governance but it’s challenged by all of the trends and changes impacting communities. Thoreson shared the model of VUCA leadership – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity – as a likely response to changes in governance. Different types of leadership will need to be employed depending on whether a situation is volatile, uncertain, complex, or ambiguous, or any combination. 


Closing Keynote – Leading the SHIFT!

Leadership skills translate both on and off the ice. Former NHL player Ryan Walter spoke before an audience of municipal administrators to demonstrate the importance of implementing a positive culture as a leader. Walter recalled the year he won the Stanley Cup in 1986 with Montreal, pointing out that his team, although in disarray in February of that year, managed to win it all nearly three months later. What had changed for his hockey team was a shift in attitude. Walter said the same can be applied in municipal government, underscoring that “all action comes out of what your people believe.” He implored leaders to discover the attitude of the team, asking the question “What are our people thinking about?” He made clear that discovering and shifting the attitude may be the hardest part of the job, as many people live below the line consistently. If they’re not dealt with, however, Walter says this sends a message to the rest that negative behaviour is acceptable, and managers should make time to deal with them. Through his demonstration of changes in attitude in both the hockey and municipal world, Ryan Walter left the audience with the message that ultimately the difference between amateurs and professionals is not talent; it is all about mindset.



The Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2016 Conference focused on the role of local governments at the centre of community building and growth across the country, with this year’s theme being “Municipalities: The Heart of Canada.”

Kicking off the 2016 Conference, the Mayor of Winnipeg, Brian Bowman, provided introductory remarks. Mayor Bowman echoed the theme of the conference, stating that “city building is, in fact, nation building.” He acknowledged the myriad of challenges facing Canada’s communities, and the importance of a strong relationship between the federal government and local governments to address those systemic issues. “I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the unprecedented access and dialogue with all of us” stated Mayor Bowman on behalf of Canada’s municipal leaders.

Following the Mayor’s remarks, the Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, took the stage to highlight the major changes to infrastructure funding and programming first announced in Budget 2016. “Weak infrastructure is the enemy of opportunity and healthy living” stated the Minister. He emphasized the commitment his government has made to investing in Canada’s municipal infrastructure to support economic growth, sustainability, and the greening of our communities.

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, then took the stage to deliver the Opening Keynote. He emphasized the importance of investing in communities in order to invest in Canada’s middle class, echoing his election platform from 2015. “Our plan for future growth adjusts with the needs of each community, it gives communities themselves the power to make decisions” said Trudeau. Phase one of the government’s infrastructure plan invests $12 billion in modernizing and upgrading public transit, improving water and wastewater systems, expanding affordable housing, and protecting infrastructure from the effects of climate change. The second phase of the government’s long-term infrastructure plan will be released in the next year. Minister Sohi and Parliamentary Secretary Adam Vaughan have started meeting with stakeholders across the country to discuss the needs for phase two funding.

“Not only are we investing in infrastructure in our communities, we’re making those investments by working closely with our provincial and territorial partners” said Trudeau. Federal infrastructure programs have faced problems in the past with delays and inconsistencies between federal and provincial/territorial priorities and funding approval processes. The Prime Minister closed by acknowledging the importance of federal-municipal cooperation in achieving collective goals: “Our vision for a better Canada will work, and we’ll get there by working side by side serving Canadians as partners together.” 

“We shouldn’t tell you whether your community needs light-rail or subways, better bridges or climate resistant infrastructure – that’s your job as municipal leaders to tell us what you need. What we will do is set objectives for investment.” - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 


Municipal Broadband Connectivity – Options and Possibilities

Improving broadband connectivity for residents is near the top of the priority list for small and rural communities across Canada. Without improved connectivity – or without connectivity at all for some communities – the safety, well-being, and economic opportunity for residents will continue to diminish. In this panel session, several municipal and industry experts discussed strategies for local government leaders to jump start broadband connectivity expansion in their respective regions through collaboration and new technological solutions. Ron McKenzie, Senior VP with Shaw Communications explained that with advancements in coaxial cable technology, communities do not need to connect fibre to each home and business in order to deliver GB speeds. Coaxial cables connected to homes and businesses from a central fibre node can provide GB speeds without the significant investment in fibre and the disruption of fibre installation into the “last mile.” According to McKenzie, in Canada “we have pretty good [broadband] coverage – the issue is the needed investment to increase connectivity speeds with so many more applications driving capacity” (broadband traffic is now doubling every few months in Canada.) Many municipal leaders indicated their frustration with the lack of coordination in Canada to systematically improve broadband connectivity across the country. The federal government announced in Budget 2016 $500 million in funding over five years “to extend and enhance broadband service in rural and remote communities”, but details on the program have yet to be announced.

Deb Higgins, Mayor of Moose Jaw, discussed her city’s partnership with Shaw to bring public WiFi to their community. “When we were first approached by Shaw about the project, our council had questions about the equipment that would be placed on historical public buildings and whether non-Shaw customers would be able to access the public service” explained Mayor Higgins. With proper community consultation the project moved forward, with four Moose Jaw facilities now having Go WiFi capability. “It was important for us on council to determine our role to play with connectivity – to promote the assets of the community through public WiFi in order to attract new residents and businesses” added Mayor Higgins.

Dean Proctor, Chief Development Officer with SSi Micro, provided another perspective to the connectivity challenge in Canada. Offering broadband, wireless and other connectivity services to remote northern communities, Proctor described the significant connectivity deficit that exists in Canada’s north: “There are significant restrictions in terms of usage – you become a bit counter in these communities where you know exactly how much sending an image will chew up your data.” Part of the problem is that government contracts for communications services have been short term and disparate. According to Proctor, part of the solution should be to provide “long term investments in connectivity and an open backbone for the north.” 


Engaging Effectively with your Local First Responders: Do’s and Don’ts

The relationship between first responders and elected officials has become a tenuous one for some communities across Canada. This panel session provided FCM delegates with best practices for proactively engaging their first responders on vision, strategy, and operations in order to strengthen relationships and improve service delivery for their respective communities. Cathy Palmer, Chair of the Edmonton Police Commission and Past President of the Canadian Association of Police Governance, shared the following Do’s and Don’ts for engaging effectively with first responders:


  • Listen, understand, and encourage one another
  • Address concerns with respect
  • Build on the creativity of those looking for change
  • Work with those on the front lines as well as emerging leaders



  • Impose without listening and understanding
  • Stop trying if things don’t automatically work the first time
  • Sanction those that take risks even if they don’t pay off


Dan Paulsen, Former Chief of the Saskatoon Fire Department, emphasized the need for communities to pull together in a proactive stance, rather than being reactive to difficult situations or emergencies: “When I think of vision, I think of all agencies building together and moving forward together.” Devon Clunis, Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, expressed how essential it is for communities to not be afraid to have the difficult conversations when it comes to their first responders. “Sometimes these conversations might be difficult, but they’re needed” said Clunis. “If you’re going to set a vision for your community, you need to engage with us. If you do this in isolation, civic officials might set a goal that is not achievable.” Chief Clunis also recommended being as transparent as possible with staff and the public regarding any issues being discussed with first responders. “If there are issues, there isn’t much benefit to hide it” said Clunis. “If you don’t expose it to the light, people won’t have collective momentum to move forward.”

“As we have these conversations, listen with your hearts rather than just your ears. We need to be authentic.” - Devon Clunis, Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service 


How Smart+Connected Communities Can Achieve Economic and Environmental Impact

How can municipalities achieve economic growth with diminishing capacity, while preserving the environment and strengthening resiliency in the face of a changing global climate? According to experts at Cisco and Philips Canada, smart technology is one resource available to local governments facing this monumental challenge. Ron Gordon, Senior Advisor for Smart+Connected Communities and Rick Huijbregts, VP of Industry Transformation and Innovation with Cisco Canada presented their new Toronto-based digitally connected Cisco office as an example of how municipalities can harness the power of smart technology for greater economic and environmental impact. “Most offices in Canada have a 50% utilization rate, meaning lots of inefficiencies if you’re heating, cooling and lighting vacant space” said Huijbregts. Cisco’s new Toronto office incorporates a smart digital ceiling, with electricity being delivered to the building through the same network cables that deliver internet. Cisco partnered with Philips to install the first light fixtures in the world that sit on the internet network. “Our capital costs have seen a reduction of 85 cents per square foot with a simpler design, fewer wires, just one network, and an easier installation” said Huijbregts. Cisco’s operating costs have also come down with centralized operations, fault detection, and energy optimization.

Daryll Nazarene, National Director - Public Segment Canada, with Philips Lighting Canada, argued that lighting should be considered an essential service for communities, consuming more than 45 percent of energy in most cities. “Connected lighting improves safety, providing real time monitoring and lighting controls enabling effective emerging response and immediate resolutions” said Nazarene. Dolorese Wright, President of Welland Ontario’s Downtown BIA, presented a compelling use case of the positive impacts of implementing connected lighting in a community. With the construction of the Welland Canal to serve as a shipping route bypassing Niagara Falls, the City of Welland flourished. In recent decades, shifting trade and industrial dynamics have stifled the economic potential of this Niagara community. Wright explained how an innovative project using connected lighting has rejuvenated the Welland community and is actually attracting attention and tourism from around the world. Capitalizing on the ongoing remediation of the Main Street Twin Tower Bridge over the Welland Canal, the Downtown BIA pushed for investment in a lighting design project that would allow the community to change the lighting of their iconic bridge, using smart technology, to reflect community and global events and causes. The bridge was lit for the first time on Canada Day in 2015. Since then, the bridge project has won three awards and it has become a source of pride for the community. Due to the connected technology utilized, operation and maintenance of the lighting system is automated and has placed a burden on a community with limited capacity. “If you light it, they will come” said Wright.