Canada’s cities and towns are calling for campaign commitments amounting to tens of billions of dollars from the federal parties jockeying to win next month’s election.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) – an umbrella group that represents communities it says include 90 per cent of the national population – said the centrepiece of its election ask was for Ottawa to make permanent this year’s doubling of the amount of gas-tax revenue passed on to local governments.
The group had signalled earlier this summer that it would be making this ask, which FCM president Bill Karsten said Thursday morning would be “the most effective and efficient step” the next government could do to assist communities across the nation. The increased size of this year’s transfer had amounted to $2.2-billion more for municipalities.
The group is also seeking more than $30-billion for long-term transit needs, money that would not flow until Ottawa’s current commitment runs out late next decade. And it is asking for measures to support housing, at least $1-billion annually for a new fund aimed at climate-change mitigation, and money for rural broadband.
“Strong, healthy, financially stable, forward-looking cities are a key to the continued success of this entire country,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said. “We are the economic engines, the cities of Canada are its economic engines that ensure that this country can continue to be prosperous.”
While a large majority of Canadians live in urban or suburban areas, municipalities collect less than 10 per cent of the total tax revenues generated nationally. The result is that civic leaders have a limited ability to pursue major initiatives without securing funding commitments from higher levels of government.
Mayors have long sought to make these transfers more predictable, thereby allowing longer-term planning. On transit, for example, the current federal commitment is promised through 2028. But transit planning often looks much farther into the future, leaving open the question of whether money will be there when required.
“We need them to say there’s going to be a funding stream, ideally along the lines of what we’ve seen in recent times, but that stretches out 10 more years, for example, or 20 more years,” Mr. Tory said.
In its formal ask, the group is seeking a $34-billion commitment to transit for 2028 through 2038, most of it allocated based on agency ridership size. They are also asking for more than $800-million annually for a variety of housing priorities, the biggest ticket of which are supportive housing and incentives to preserve market rental.