At the 115th Annual Convention in February, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) announced it is changing its name to Municipalities of Saskatchewan. We know you have questions, so we've done our best to answer them below.
Why is SUMA rebranding?
SUMA has struggled for years with recognition by other orders of government, the media, and the public. Under Saskatchewan legislation, any gathering of residents with an autonomous municipal government is considered urban, which means that every village, resort village, town, city, and northern municipality is a part of the urban family. However, Statistics Canada defines “urban” as anywhere with a population of at least 1,000 and a density of 400 or more people per square kilometer, and the Federal Government usually defines “urban” for program purposes as population centres of 100,000 people or more. The media, and often the public, tend to think "cities" when they hear the word urban.
To better represent Saskatchewan's hometowns, we wanted a name that more accurately reflects our membership, from Sasktchewan's largest cities to it's smallest villages, and every hometown in between. As an organization, we represent 80 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population. The new name was designed to reflect that reality.
How long has a name-change been planned and who made the decision to rebrand?
The decision to rebrand was made as part of the 2017-2021 strategic plan developed by the SUMA Board of Directors shortly after the last election. Focus groups representing members from every sector and size of SUMA’s membership were consulted to determine how they felt about our current brand and the possibility of changing it. The decision to change the name of the organization was not taken lightly. It was made in consultation with a professional branding consultant and the new name was unanimously supported by the Board of Directors in 2019.
Were other names considered?
Several names were considered throughout the rebranding process, including simply dropping the “U” in SUMA. Every option contemplated had some potential for brand confusion with an existing organization—including Municipalities of Saskatchewan. However, the new name won for its simplicity, strength, and focus.
What about SARM?
Municipalities of Saskatchewan continues to value its relationship with SARM. We regularly combine efforts in advocacy with the provincial government.
Following the Board of Director’s approval of the new name in late September 2019, we immediately reached out to SARM to let them know that the change was coming and what the new name would be.
While there is still the potential for membership confusion between the Municipalities of Saskatchewan and SARM, the fact that SARM’s name continues to include the term “rural” makes it clear their membership consists of rural municipalities—while the Municipalities of Saskatchewan reflects the broad umbrella of diverse membership — cities, towns, villages, resort villages, and northern municipalities — that make up our organization.
Are SUMA and SARM amalgamating?
No. The name was not changed to encourage or initiate amalgamation - the rebranding is to embrace the strength and breadth of the hometowns we represent - Saskatchewan's cities, towns, villages, resort villages, and northern municipalities.
At Convention 2020, a resolution was brought forward by a member municipality regarding SUMA engaging SARM in exploratory discussions to merge the two associations. Resolutions direct advocacy efforts. This resolution was defeated by the membership and no merger discussions are being pursued.
Why didn’t SUMA bring the name change forward for a vote at the AGM?
In 2017, the memerbship elected their region and sector representatives for the Board of Directors. The Board's goal is to position the organization in the best way possible to advocate on behalf of Saskatchewan's hometowns. Over the last three years, the Board has experienced the difficulties first hand that arise from having the word "urban" in the association name. With this experience, the information gained through the focus group consultations, and the required powers of representation, the Board felt best positioned to make the decision to rebrand SUMA.
What happens now?
We are working to change The SUMA Act. The act has not been amended since it was proclaimed in 1967. In addition to changing the name, we are seeking a variety of other amendments that will give us powers already granted to SARM through periodic amendments to their act and incorporate some ideas from acts governing municipal associations in other jurisdictions.
We have begun using the name Municipalities of Saskatchewan in our communications and interactions, but our corporate business continues to be conducted under the name SUMA until the act is amended.
Have a question we haven't answered?
More information about the rebranding will be shared with Saskatchewan's hometowns during the Town and Village Sector Meeting and City Mayors' Caucus meeting taking place in early May. There will also be a rebranding webinar for members in late May.
Questions and concerns can also be sent to Municipalities of Saskatchewan CEO Jean-Marc Nadeau.