MD of Bonnyville plans to depart from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Written By Wyatt Claypool, Posted on December 9, 2019

Bonnyville’s Municipal district (MD) board voted to remove itself from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) lobbying group after long term concerns of the member district reached ahead following the Canadian federal election in October.

Board members from the rural Alberta municipality already did not believe the federal government was representing their interests, and that the FCM was not helping matters. 


Greg Sawchuk, reeve for Bonnyville MD, said that his constituency has felt left behind by the FCM who doesn’t seem to care about the municipality’s oil and gas resource development issues, and so Bonnyville gets no support in fighting restrictive federal regulations.

Mr. Sawchuk said that “we have, as you know, more oil wells up here than we actually have people; and so, the industry does provide a lot of revenue that we are able to share with our neighbouring municipalities for support services. What we’ve continued to see is an attack through federal legislation on that industry…we’ve seen it with the lack of investment taking place. We just had numbers here today from our development of planning office, we are at the lowest number of development dollars since the early 2000s.” 

Mr. Sawchuk went onto mention how despite Bonnyville representatives attending FCM meetings in several different cities, every time the focus of each meeting was clearly meant only for the big cities. 

“If you just look at the agenda for the meeting, the study tours that are available usually go out and they look at infrastructure for that city. Does it provide relevance or is it worthwhile to again to our municipality, and do we get some benefit from that? And overwhelmingly our council said no.” 

The Bonnyville MD having reviewed and questioned their involvement in the FCM went forward and announced that they were contemplating leaving the lobbying group, which prompted a surprising amount of response from the same group that had so often ignored them.

Mr. Sawchuk in the aftermath of the announcement said, “I got an email saying that the FCM president would like to talk to you on the phone. So I entertained this is about two weeks ago, and so we had about a half-hour conversation where I put across many of the same things that we just felt as though there was no mention of natural resource development, from FCM. And for something that’s so important not only rural Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. for it to be completely discounted and not even brought up, we felt we needed to look at a different avenue.” 

Mr. Sawchuk continued explaining that the FCM president had made efforts to show up to a Rural Municipal Association (RMA) meetings, but other than a public appearance did little to bridge the divide between city and rural interests. 

The reason for the FCM taking any interest in Bonnyville MD leaving the group, according to Mr. Sawchuk, was, “[the FCM president] met with over 20 municipalities because they got the feeling that if we were to make the move and pull out that a number of others might also pull out.”

Other rural municipalities had either agreed with Bonnyville that FCM was not representing them, or had just not spoken on the issue, confirming the fears of the FCM administration.

Seeing that nothing was actually going to change Mr. Sawchuk said that,”[our council] actually did go ahead and we made the motion to withdraw our membership but at the end of the year,” which will mean Bonnyville MD is deciding to pocket the money they had been contributing to FCM and use it for advocacy on their own behalf.  

In part, it was no shock that Bonnyville eventually pulled out of FCM and won’t be if other municipalities also begin to pull out. Mr. Sawchuk acknowledged that the funding differences between large populous municipalities and rural ones lead to an imbalance of priorities. 

Mr. Sawchuk firmly stated that “Even if all of rural Alberta pulled out the financial impact would not be that great because [we] don’t even measure up to what Toronto pays into the association.” showing that in part none of this was exactly anyone’s fault as larger cities cannot be ignored when they financially hold the group together.

In the future due to the shakeup of FCM potentially losing large amounts of rural support, groups like the RMA may find themselves taking a greater lobbying role in federal politics exclusively on behalf or rural municipalities like Bonnyville MD.

Wyatt Claypool

Wyatt is a student at Mount Royal University, where he is the president of its Campus Conservative club. In his writing, he focuses on covering provincial and federal politics, firearms regulation, and the energy sector. Wyatt has also previously written for The Post Millennial.

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