Sackville councillors attend Sustainable Communities Conference 2014

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Sackville town councilor Margaret Tusz-King, was invited to be on the panel during a plenary to talk about sustainability and resilience in communities at the recent Sustainable Communities Conference.

Two Sackville town councillors came home from last week’s Sustainable Communities Conference with plenty to think about – and plenty to be optimistic about.

Coun. Bill Evans, who attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference and trade show in Charlottetown from Feb. 11-13 with fellow councillor Margaret Tusz-King, Sackville’s chief administrative officer Phil Handrahan and Renaissance Sackville coordinator Julia Feltham, said he left the Island feeling inspired after the three-day event, which placed its focus this year on adapting to extreme weather events and overcoming today’s challenges to local sustainability.

“Instead of focusing on what is discouraging about the circumstances in which municipalities find themselves, this conference was dominated by examples of communities doing exciting and innovative things and community leaders who exemplify a positive and inclusive attitude,” said Evans.

“In every case, success involved community engagement and good planning,” he said. “I came away looking forward to working together to achieve that here in Sackville.”

Tusz-King, who was invited to be on the panel during the Thurday plenary to talk about sustainability and resilience in our communities – along with the Mayor of Lac-Megantic, a councilor from the city of Calgary, and the Mayor of Fredericton – said she was also encouraged by the actions of other communities in the face of adversity.

“It was very moving to hear the account of Lac-Megantic and how the response of the community unfolded,” she said. “It was also interesting to hear about Calgary, where their emergency response centre is located in a bunker, four stories below ground level!”

For her part, Tusz-King discussed the Sustainable Sackville plan and “how this is contributing to our community resilience in the face of climate change and other risks” (i.e. flooding, sea level rise, train accidents etc).

“I was glad to be able to talk about the professional approach that our fire chief is taking, as EMO coordinator, and the wide involvement of our community, Mount Allison University, and other researchers in our region, in providing our community with data and support  to work through our challenges. I also acknowledged the supportive leadership of our local planning commission, which was key to the Sustainable Sackville process.”

Tusz-King said one of the most interesting workshops she attended at the conference was sponsored by the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“The Canadian insurance industry has been losing money recently, due to the catastrophic events like the flooding in Alberta and in Toronto, and the Lac-Megantic train tragedy. So, this industry is very interested in seeing municipalities, and others, doing things to adapt to the changing climate, to reduce the costs to insured infrastructure,” she said.

She said one of the more compelling things she heard during this discussion was that, if homes are not deemed 'insurable' (perhaps located in an area of expected flooding, for example), then the homeowner will not be able to get a mortgage to purchase the property because the banks will not lend money for homes that are not insured.

“So there is a direct link with the banking industry and climate change that will be playing out in our near future,” she said.

Organizations: Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Mount Allison University, Insurance Bureau of Canada

Geographic location: Sackville, Lac-Megantic, Charlottetown Calgary Fredericton Alberta Toronto

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