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Sask RMs call for more baseline training for municipal leaders

Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and many RMs are calling for more educational resources to be made available for elected officials in municipal government. Dave Parsons / Global News

Saskatchewan RMs are voicing their concerns over the lack of educational resources available for elected officials in regional municipal governments.

Sherry Jimmy, reeve of the RM of Meota, has over 20 years of experience in municipal politics. She said that while it can be a rewarding career, it can also be very frustrating.

“There are a lot of provincial laws that municipalities must adhere to. There are decision making processes that cannot be made in isolation and must be done in the larger context of provincial legislation and policy.”

She said it can sometimes be difficult to tell what the true authorities are of a rural council and there should be more educational opportunities for those in leadership positions.

“When you are elected to the position of reeve and councillor, you don’t just automatically walk in there and know what your role and responsibility is,” Jimmy said.

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She said there is a lot of confusion around the roles of a governing body versus the role of administration and operations.

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There are currently training opportunities through municipal development programs, schools of public policy and community colleges, but Jimmy said the opportunities aren’t met with a lot of uptake.

“We need to do a better job of finding ways to engage our leaders in what I would term as a mandatory baseline of training.”

She said throughout her years of experience, the level of responsibility on a municipal leader has increased, a thought echoed by Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.

“Good people are giving up countless hours of free service to make our rural municipalities thrive,” Orb said. “It is time we offer up training and support.”

He said without training and mentoring, the positions become challenging.

“Our municipal leaders are in a vulnerable position. They work, live, and raise families in the RMs they represent, and sometimes the backlash of a decision affects their personal lives.”

Jimmy said RMs aren’t just family farms anymore, but areas filled with agriculture sector diversification and oil and gas development.

“We have seen the urbanization of rural municipalities,” Jimmy said. “Add to that, the complexities around partnership agreements with other municipal governments to enhance levels of service.”

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She said development only adds to more intense decision making at the local level, making baseline training a vital part of leadership.

SARM said it wants the provincial government to assist in developing and promoting programs that directly apply to rural Saskatchewan council, mentorship, continuous education, and enhancing the experience of municipal government.

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