Portage la Prairie mayor Irvine Ferris attended the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) fall convention last week.

Ferris says it was the first in-person convention in the last two years and several resolutions were made.

"Of course, we didn't have one last year, and were down a little bit," says Ferris. "But it was really good to see mayors and councillors and reeves from across the province, and also with our provincial counterparts and some federal people. We debated and voted on a total of 22 resolutions this year. They range from everything including water strategy, hydro rates, to health care issues, especially on rural ambulances, and that kind of thing."

He notes one resolution was about bringing in a five-year provincial capital plan and another for highway maintenance.

"But, probably, the most important one to the City of Portage would have been the resolution that was added, actually, later in this past year," continues Ferris. "And it was the resolution around RCMP costs. This was sponsored by the City of Selkirk. I spoke to it on the floor. The resolution was that AMM lobby the Province of Manitoba and the Government of Canada to provide financial assistance to Manitoba municipalities to offset the unexpected rising policing costs associated with the RCMP unionization."

Ferris explains the Government of Canada recently negotiated its first collective agreement with the RCMP.

"This resulted in a 27 per cent increase," adds Ferris. "We had been advised about the negotiations that the federal government had set aside 2.5 per cent per year. and that should cover the retroactive back-pay. In reality, that number was far too low. Our estimates, right now, -- and we don't have firm numbers -- is that the retroactive back-pay that the City of Portage would be responsible for would be $800,000."

He says, besides that, they're also looking at about $800,000 in additional costs per year going forward for police services.

"So, this is something that's got a significant impact on our city, and also right across Manitoba," says Ferris. "Many cities have the RCMP as their service providers. Really, what we're saying to the federal government is that we didn't get to take part in these negotiations. The estimates and the advice we were given were far, far too low for what the actual costs turned out to be. That was very important to this city and I think most cities across the province."

Ferris adds one of the biggest things coming out of the convention was a bear-pit session with the provincial cabinet.

"The premier was also there to speak," notes Ferris. "Probably, one of the things that we noticed the most was that there seemed to be a reset. The tone was a lot different. The provincial government seems to want to work with municipalities and cities to move Manitoba ahead. It was very encouraging -- just a different tone."

He says that it's extremely encouraging, seeing as they work closely with the province on many issues. Ferris explains, having a partner that really wants to work in cooperation with the various municipalities, is so important to everyone.