2013 MNL convention a great learning experience for new councillors
He’s already mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador’s director on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a member of Nalcor’s board of directors, and provincial president of the Alzheimer’s Society – now Al Hawkins can add another title to that list.
© File photo
Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Al Hawkins assumed the Vice President position of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador by acclamation this weekend at MNL’s annual convention and general meeting.
Hawkins is now vice-president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) after winning the post by acclimation at last weekend’s MNL annual convention and general meeting in St. John’s.
Hawkins takes the post, a two-year position, from Neville Greely of Corner Brook.
Gander mayor Claude Elliott has assumed Hawkins’ old post of central director. Centreville-Wareham-Trinity Mayor Churence Rogers will remain as president of MNL for another term.
Hawkins said he’s thrilled with his new title and that he’s looking forward to working on the issues facing this province’s municipalities.
“It will be exiting, it requires a lot of work, but I tend to thieve on work so I don’t mind that,” Hawkins told the Advertiser. “It gives me the opportunity to be part of planning the future for our towns in Newfoundland and Labrador, so I’m looking forward to that, and looking forward to the challenge.”
Hawkins said his keen interest in the economic development of municipalities would be an asset to his new post. One of the key things he and the other members of the newly elected executive board will be working on is developing a new fiscal arrangement between municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador and the provincial government.
“That process is started and that’s going to be taking a fair amount of time because we’re trying to come up with a new financial structure so that communities have more of a sustainable and predictable revenue stream other than just the property tax,” Hawkins said.
“Terms of reference have been exchanged between the province and MNL about how and what way this will be structured, and what type of structure it will be. Hopefully, by 2015, we should be able to have…a new fiscal arrangement, and there maybe smaller pieces of that fiscal arrangement we can achieve before that period of time.”
Though newly elected as vice president, Hawkins said he already has plans to go for the MNL’s top position in the future.
“I’ll be serving two years as VP and hopefully at the end of that (run for) president of MNL,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to move my not only my community but other communities forward in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Aside from the various housekeeping items that the newly elected executive board had to tend to, Hawkins said this weekend was jam-packed with various sessions, opportunities, and workshops for the 1,000-plus that attended the MNL convention.
“There was a whole gamut of sessions we attended; urban municipalities looked at the issues around biker gangs, both the RNC and RCMP gave us a briefing on that, which was a closed-door session,” Hawkins said.
There were also sessions on fire safety, fiscal taxation, and specific workshops for small communities, Hawkins said.
“Another big session was with (comedian) Shaun Majumder from Burlington and Peter Blackie, and they talked about economic opportunities in smaller communities and what they’re doing in Burlington to add to the local economy,” he said.
Hawkins said the Majumder discussion was very well attended and there was a lot of great discussion about how it’s possible to create opportunities in smaller communities when people who have left and gone on to do other things come back to reinvest in the place they call home.
“There was also a lot of vendors there with products for municipalities from wastewater management and sewage treatment, all that kind of stuff. It’s very interesting opportunity as a well for new councillors and mayors to see what exactly is out there and available for their municipalities,” he said.
In fact, Hawkins said, the entire convention was a great learning experience for new councillors and mayors, and many communities, including Grand Falls-Windsor, made sure their new councillors attended.
“There was a lot of focused on the new councillors and mayors that were elected so there were training sessions for that, orientations that they could take advantage of,” Hawkins said.
He also said it was a chance for councillors to mingle and network with other municipalities, as well as representatives from the provincial government.
“For our new councillors, it gave them an orientation, gave them an opportunity to learn about their role and what they should be doing and shouldn’t be doing,” Hawkins said. “There wasn’t a lot of free time the weekend, it was pretty jam packed.”
With one convention over, Hawkins has a few weeks before he heads to Ottawa to meet the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. When asked how he juggles all his mayoral work with his other posts, he said it keeps him busy.
“It requires a lot of work, but I tend to thrive on work, so I don’t mind that.”
For more information on this weekend’s MNL conference, visit their website at www.municipalnl.ca.