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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is slated to deliver the federal budget on March 22. (Chris Wattie/Reuters/Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is slated to deliver the federal budget on March 22. (Chris Wattie/Reuters/Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Canada's big-city mayors are wondering: After the stimulus, what's next? Add to ...

I would hope to see a real commitment to understanding that we deliver the services that Canadians use every hour of every day. We do not have the revenue sources or the authority to deliver those services as effectively as we could. If the federal government disappeared today, it would probably be a week or two before most Canadians noticed. If the provincial governments disappeared, unless you were in school or the hospital, it might be a couple days before you noticed. If the municipal governments disappeared, you'd have no transit, no roads, no lights and no clean water. You'd notice because you'd be dead.

I don't care how I get the money, but I need the money. What I would love to see is a long-term reliable funding source, whether it's moving more on the gas tax or ceding a point of the GST so we really have predictability in our funding. I want my own money and the responsibility to be in charge of my own funding. My indication from the federal government is that they're focused on deficit right now and there's not a lot of new money in the pantry. I look forward to them being thoughtful about what they want to do in the future, and I'll take any money they've got now.

Stephen Mandel, Edmonton

I don't think we're going to see much. I think the federal government's been pretty clear that it's time to reduce the deficit. They're going to find ways to cut wherever they can cut, and they're not going to call us about it. Do I think they should? Probably. But is it going to happen? No. Let's be realistic. We need more say. We need to be at the table. We need to have some discussion on how we're going to fund infrastructure in the long term. But I don't see that as an opportunity in the coming future. We're in a real tough place. Property taxes are a very inelastic, unfair, punitive tax. And then we're left to find ways to build infrastructure. It's a tough gig and I take a realistic view of what's going to happen in Ottawa: We're not going to get anything. The fundamental issue is that cities have no position anywhere, we have no real strength. Someone has to give up strength to give us strength and I don't see that happening any time real soon.

Pat Fiacco, Regina

We have to give the federal government credit because the Building Canada Fund has made a humongous difference, the stimulus funding has made a great difference, but that all ends now. Then what? That's going to have a huge economic impact. Do we want to see the construction industry go in the tank? My worry is that there's just a complete drop-off, that there's no mention of the future. That concerns me. There needs to be some messaging for us there that we're on the right track. This government has made it very clear that we are creatures of the province, based on the constitution. But I think politicians really need to pay attention, both provincial and federal, to the fact that the majority of Canadians live in cities. We could make this country a lot better if the federal government would actually allow municipal leaders to get involved. Man oh man, we've got this whole thing backwards. They don't consider us important politically at all. You just have to look at the distribution of votes to see that. It's very backwards and I think Canadians are starting to pay attention to that.

Sam Katz, Winnipeg

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