Calgary Herald

Cash-strapped cities ask for $2B a year commitment

- LAURA STONE lstoNe@calgaryher­

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.

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