Several themes have emerged during the 2020 Sustainable Communities Conference. One that stood out again today is the support for inclusive community engagement. To make changes and address the diverse and numerous challenges local leaders face today, it is important to make sure no one is left behind. We must heal systemic injustices on our way to building more sustainable and resilient communities. The Expert Panel on Inclusive Recovery for Resilient Communities perfectly embodied this theme. Four impressive women led a stimulating discussion on exposing fault-lines and discovering avenues to support vulnerable populations.

Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have had more notable impacts on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour). The neighbourhood-level inequalities have been decades and even centuries in the making. These systemic inequalities demand action at the local level and they require community-wide engagement. It is up to local leaders to seek ways to engage vulnerable populations and collaborate with a more diverse set of perspectives and ideas.

Following the expert panel, the Honourable Catherine Mckenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, joined the delegation from Ottawa. The Minister praised the outstanding leadership that she has seen from municipalities across the country during this time. This leadership is critical because we have an obligation to our children to take ambitious climate action. When Mckenna was running for office, FCM asked for more ambitious funding for infrastructure. This is something she wants to continue to deliver to support projects from housing to green infrastructure. Throughout her keynote address, she reiterated a sincere desire to work with municipalities to achieve ambitious climate action goals.

The Minister’s address was a wonderful precursor to today’s workshops. Each workshop included effective avenues to institute change whether it was through sustainable procurement, energy retrofits, reducing carbon, or asset management. One workshop that stood out focused on the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and asset management. Local governments from all over the world have been aligning their strategic plans with the United Nations’ SDGs. Goal 11 is to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Goal 13 is to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” Finally, Goal 16 is to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.” Each of these goals can be more easily achieved through effective asset management practices. Asset management requires corporate-wide and community-wide collaboration to efficiently manage both grey and green infrastructure. In conclusion, comprehensive asset management planning leads to more safe and sustainable communities.

The Resiliency Roundtables for today focused on the definition of resilience. Resilience is understood as the ability to recover quickly from difficulty. Delegates broke out into working groups to discover what kinds of challenges they face in their sustainability efforts. Each group shared many common challenges, including the difficulty to gain council support, limited staff capacity and skills, and dealing with private ownership. Each of these challenges has been addressed at length throughout yesterday and today’s plenary sessions and workshops. As the conference carries on, we can expect to see more and more opportunities to learn about how to overcome these challenges.

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