Live from Halifax
Yesterday two sessions were presented at FCM’s annual AGM in Halifax via webcast. The session featuring social media (set on the venue’s biggest stage, and featuring Twitterverse star Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi) was a no-brainer–what better topic to use as litmus test for how big the online audience is for these types of sessions? There was certainly a lot of interest in the session from the delegates who travelled to Halifax–the room was packed with hundreds of tweeps, many forgoing note-taking in favour of 140-character soundbites from both Nenshi and interactive communications manager for the City of Regina, Philippe Leclerc.
Surprisingly, more people tuned in online for a session earlier in the day on climate change adaptation for small-to-medium-sized municipalities.
ReNew Canada’s editor, Mira Shenker, moderated the web forum where participants were able to see slides, along with video of speakers Julien St. Laurent (City of Trois-Rivières), Jean-Luc Allard (SNC-Lavalin), Serge Dupuis (City of Dieppe), and Réjean Laforest (City of Saguenay).
Speakers took questions from the live audience as well as from those watching online. One attendee, watching from São Paulo, Brazil, asked, “Do you think that the construction of a net of municipalities is a important way to start projects in adaptation and development for social and environmental issues?
Dupuis, whose city joined forces with neigbouring cities Moncton and Riverview to develop a pilot project, said it’s not necessary to form regional partnerships. One municipality can develop effective strategies to adapt its infrastructure.
Réjean Laforest felt it was important to point out that one municipality alone has fewer resources than several working together–”There’s strength in numbers,” he said. “Plus il ya du monde, plus il y a d’idées.”
Another online user commented: “Since many of the problems to deal with cross over administrative boundaries and since many small municipalities are limited in terms of technical, human as well as financial resources, I believe it makes more sense to adopt a more regional approach right from the start. It will make implementing solutions much easier in the longer term. Adapting to climate change is very much about doing things differently and collaborating much more.”
Nobody needed to tell this crowd that municipalities have limited resources. Many of the delegates–mostly city councillors and municipal staff–mentioned that municipalities only get eight cents of every tax dollar. Several said they have had to make touch choices between mitigating flood impacts and assuring that water is properly treated. When polled during the session on climate change, only 20 per cent of online participants said that their municipality had the funding in place to do both.
One audience member (live and in person) expressed concern that cash-strapped municipalities are putting so much money towards adaptation to climate change that mitigation efforts are suffering. She said, “Funding for adaptation takes money away from reduction, leading to even higher temperatures and a higher need for adaptation.”
After Laforest showed a video montage of recent flood events in his region, some in the audience were left feeling that the time for reduction may have passed.