London welcomed 400 delegates from across Canada to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual Sustainable Communities Conference, held Feb. 10-12 at the London Convention Centre.
The conference offers administrators and elected officials from across the country panels, workshops, and discussions to learn from each other’s experiences in building socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable communities.
London was chosen two years ago to host the 2015 conference because it’s at the head of the pack in Canada as one of only 25 communities in the country to have completed all five milestones in FCM's Partners for Climate Change program.
“This is about not reinventing the wheel,” said Brad Woodside, FCM president and mayor of Fredericton, N.B., during an address at a welcome reception held Feb. 10 at Museum London.
“What defines London in terms of sustainability is that it's always asking what's next,” Woodside said, adding London is open to sharing with other municipalities including his own, and the entire FCM.
Mayor Matt Brown said London has “a number of projects” that could be seen as very progressive to visitors from across the country.
Those projects include District Energy, London’s Wastewater Facility, and the Stoney Creek Community Centre, all of which hosted tours of delegates looking for ideas to take home to their own communities.
The conference was anticipated to have a $300,000 economic impact in the downtown as delegates spent three days in the city, with many venturing out for one-on-one meetings during the day and taking in local nightlife after hours.
This is the first major FCM conference for London's new council, but Brown, who has already arranged a staff visit to Fredericton to learn some of their best practices, said being at the table with the FCM will be a priority during his term as mayor.
"We need to work together regionally, provincially, and nationally on behalf of communities right across the country,” Brown said, “I plan for London to play a very active role."
Several City of London staff and councillors attended the conference, not just to share their experiences, but also to learn from others.
“It was a good opportunity for myself and new councillors to network and learn about what other municipalities are doing right,” said Ward 10 Coun. Virginia Ridley. “It certainly expanded my views of what is possible in terms of sustainability.”
Ward 1 Coun. Michael Van Holst met with people who have already successfully completed initiatives he’d like to see in London. “Drawing on their experience will save the city many times the cost of the conference.”
In addition to sharing local best practices, London hosted a first for FCM, an off-site session designed to retain some of the wealth of expertise at the conference. Fifty London leaders, 50 visiting delegates, and 12 Western University students in the Master's in Environment & Sustainability program spent three hours at Labatt exploring the process of putting municipal plans into action, an area where the City of London often faces criticism.
Jay Stanford, director of environment, fleet and solid waste, organized the session.
“The work of the 110 individuals concluded with a list of go forward actions that will benefit all communities in Canada and, important to London, actions specific to our community,” Stanford said. “The afternoon activity produced at least 25 specific actions for London that can be further examined, to determine where they fit within our current mandate and see what new items can help lead to more sustainable actions in London.”
As with past national and international events, London was once again praised as a host.
“The people I speak to are saying it’s one of the better SCC conferences in terms of how it’s been run. It’s very smooth,” Woodside said. “Both the FCM team and the City of London team have done a very nice job.”