Cash-strapped cities ask for $2B a year commitment
Cash-strapped Canadian cities are asking the major federal political parties to commit almost $2 billion a year to address traffic congestion, affordable housing and emergency services, with Calgary’s share totalling over $60 million.
The request comes from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a group of big city mayors, small urban and rural communities, and 21 provincial and territorial municipal as- sociations, which represents 80 per cent of Canada’s population.
The money would go towards four key federal programs — three of which are set to expire in three years and one that has already run dry — which make up 40 per cent of core funding for municipalities, according to FCM.
Thegroupsaysthemunicipal infrastructure deficit has risen to $123 billion over the past 25 years and Ottawa needs to help fund programs and rebuild crumbling infrastructure.
In a statement, FCM president Hans Cunningham asked voters to urge federal candidates to renew the funding.
“Think about how losing this money will affect your neighbourhood: the unfilled potholes, the cracked sidewalks, the closed pools and recreation centres, the disappearing bus routes,” he wrote.
The group also wants the next federal government to protect funds such as the $700-million GST rebate and the $2-billion Gas Tax Fund, but wants it indexed to inflation and population growth.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said municipalities need long-term funding from parties in order to plan for future projects, such as LRT lines.
“One of the irritating things about sitting in my chair is that you just can’t predict and you can’t rely on (the federal funding),” he said.
The federation is asking for more than $1.9 billion a year, which consists of:
$1.2 billion for the Building Canada Fund, used for larger projects and shared between Ottawa, the province and the municipality, which expires in 2014;
$380 million per year for affordable housing and homelessness programs, which expires in 2014;
$300 million per year for Public Transit Capital Trust, dedicated transit cash which expired last year;
$80millionperyearforthePolice Officer Recruitment Fund, which aims to recruit 2,500 officers and expires in 2014.