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Federation of Canadian Municipalities Big City Mayors Caucus Chair and Mayor of Halifax Mike Savage speaks during a news conference on Nov. 23 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canadian mayors are dismayed at the lack of new funding in this week’s economic statement after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised just six months ago that his government would unveil a new long-term infrastructure program this fall.

Mayors are working Parliament Hill’s backrooms this week, urging cabinet ministers and MPs to move more aggressively on infrastructure than what Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled in Tuesday’s statement.

While the Liberal government billed the fiscal update as a housing-focused plan, mayors are disappointed there were no pledges of new direct funding to cities struggling to manage rapid population increases, growing homelessness and increasingly unaffordable housing markets for buyers and renters.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities sent about a hundred representatives to Ottawa this week to push for a stronger plan in the coming 2024 budget and the promised renewal of the federal government’s long-term infrastructure plan.

Six months ago, Mr. Trudeau told an FCM conference in Toronto that a new long-term infrastructure plan was just months away.

“Our next long-term infrastructure plan will be revealed this fall and like with public transit, I can share with you today that this funding will have very direct links to housing,” Mr. Trudeau told an FCM audience in May.

The Liberals finally feel ‘the squeeze,’ set new tone for spending

The federal government’s current Investing in Canada plan was launched in 2016 and covers 12 years, but much of that funding has now been allocated. Some elements of the plan will soon expire.

At a news conference Thursday in Ottawa, FCM leaders say they are now focused on ensuring their needs are addressed in the next federal budget, which is usually tabled in March.

“We’re disappointed. We need that commitment,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, who chairs the FCM’s big city mayors’ caucus, when asked about Mr. Trudeau’s pledge and the fact that it was not mentioned in the update.

The FCM released research Thursday at a news conference in Ottawa showing that for each new home built in Canada, municipalities are on the hook for about $107,000 per home in support, such as roads, sewers and parks.

“We’re very concerned,” said FCM president Scott Pearce. “We can’t build that housing without the infrastructure funds.”

The mayors say traditional revenue sources such as property taxes are not enough to cover these costs. They are asking Ottawa and the provinces to support new funding arrangements.

Cities eye housing, transit funding from Ottawa for economic recovery

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow presses Ottawa for more than $100-million in shelter funding

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow has floated the idea of a municipal sales tax, but said she’s open to other ideas. Ms. Chow and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have formed a working group to discuss options. Federal deputy minister of finance Chris Forbes has been assigned to participate in the talks.

The Liberal government has hinted that the new infrastructure plan will include a stronger focus on housing than in the past. The government announced this week that Infrastructure Canada will be renamed as the Department of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities.

Tuesday’s economic statement was silent on the promised renewal of infrastructure spending.

“The only thing they did for housing was change the name of the housing department,” said Conservative finance critic Jasraj Singh Hallan Thursday in Question Period.

A spokesperson for federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser referred questions about infrastructure funding to Ms. Freeland’s office.

Katherine Cuplinskas, a spokesperson for the Finance Minister, responded with a statement that pointed to this week’s housing announcements, but made no reference to the status of the promised long-term infrastructure plan.

Tuesday’s economic statement announced $15-billion in loans for rental apartment construction, and $1-billion in funding, over three years, to support non-profit, co-op and public-housing providers.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan took issue with the fact that even the $1-billion in funding that was in the update is not budgeted until after April 1, 2025.

“People are living in tent encampments, being evicted from their homes or trapped paying sky-high rent and the Liberals continue to delay and disappoint in their fall economic statement,” she said during Question Period, describing the funding timeline as “absurd and completely out of touch.”

Mr. Fraser responded, saying existing programs are currently available.

“What we’ve done in the fall economic statement is demonstrate our long-term commitment,” he said.

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