Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties’ re­quests of Ottawa in­clude gas tax fund­ing boost, cash to adapt to cli­mate change //

Re­quest is part of the 100-day wish list for the Trudeau gov­ern­ment

The Peterborough Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - JOR­DAN PRESS

OTTAWA — Canada’s ci­ties say the fed­eral Lib­er­als are will­ing to find cre­ative ways to re­move po­lit­i­cal road­blocks from prov­inces to fund bil­lions in mu­nic­i­pal projects, a sign of hope that comes as they ask Ottawa for more money and new ways to fund lo­cal work.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, his deputy Chrys­tia Free­land and other newly named cab­i­net min­is­ters have given “very clear sig­nals” about eas­ing the flow of funds as part of their con­ver­sa­tions with city lead­ers, said Ed­mon­ton Mayor Don Ive­son.

Ive­son’s com­ments came near the end of the Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties’ con­fer­ence in Ottawa this week, which in­cluded a meet­ing with Trudeau and Free­land on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has op­tions to make the money move, Ive­son said, point­ing to the dou­bling of the gas-tax fund­ing this year, which the Lib­er­als called a one-time ar­range­ment to do an en­daround on prob­lem­atic prov­inces.

The Trudeau Lib­er­als will have to lean on prov­inces to re­move hur­dles — po­lit­i­cal or oth­er­wise — that hold up fed­eral spending and, in turn, lo­cal con­struc­tion plans for things like af­ford­able hous­ing, said Ive­son, who chairs the fed­er­a­tion’s cau­cus of may­ors from the largest ci­ties in Canada.

“If there’s an op­por­tu­nity to do the right thing and help re­duce de­mand for a costly pro­vin­cial pub­lic ser­vice, surely prov­inces can come to the ta­ble and be part­ners,” Ive­son said Thurs­day.

“And if they’re not, then the fed­eral gov­ern­ment needs to use all the tools in its tool kit to drive them back in to pro­duc­tive na­tion-build­ing con­ver­sa­tion.”

What the coun­try needs, he said, is “coura­geous lead­er­ship” from all lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

Ci­ties are also hop­ing for bil­lions in new spending and po­ten­tial new pow­ers.

On Thurs­day, the fed­er­a­tion re­leased its wish list for the first 100 days of the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s sec­ond man­date.

The doc­u­ment urged the Lib­er­als to boost annual in­creases to the gas-tax fund to 3.5 per cent, from two per cent, and per­ma­nently dou­ble the value of the pro­gram to just over $4 bil­lion.

The group also wants the gov­ern­ment to elim­i­nate caps on fund­ing for tran­sit re­hab projects, al­low other spending to up­grade coun­cil cham­bers and ad­min­is­tra­tive build­ings, and add $2 bil­lion in new spending for projects that help com­mu­ni­ties adapt to cli­mate change.

It’s also ask­ing for tens of bil­lions in new spending com­mit­ments, in­clud­ing $34 bil­lion for tran­sit over 10 years once the cur­rent agree­ment runs out in 2028.

Trudeau said the Lib­eral cam­paign plat­form was, in part, in­spired by the pri­or­i­ties the fed­er­a­tion laid out, and that its ideas would con­tinue to in­form his party’s ap­proach to gov­ern­ing — even with a sharply di­vided elec­torate and mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment.

“After all, we’re all serv­ing the same peo­ple — Cana­di­ans from coast, to coast, to coast, who ex­pect us to do right by them,” Trudeau said dur­ing brief re­marks be­fore meet­ing be­hind closed doors with the group’s lead­er­ship.

In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna told the gath­er­ing of mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers on Wed­nes­day that get­ting projects built quickly is her top pri­or­ity, a nod to crit­i­cisms the Lib­er­als face about the slow trickle of fed­eral dol­lars for ap­proved projects — some of which is beyond the gov­ern­ment’s con­trol.

Bill Karsten, pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, said the peo­ple he rep­re­sents on Hal­i­fax city coun­cil care more about re­sults than the process gov­ern­ments take. He also said op­po­si­tion par­ties have been open to the group’s sug­ges­tions but would not re­veal which ones.

Ray Orb, who speaks for the fed­er­a­tion’s ru­ral mem­bers, said the Lib­er­als must keep ru­ral Canada in mind to en­sure smaller com­mu­ni­ties have re­li­able in­ter­net ac­cess, for in­stance, and don’t miss out on dis­as­ter-mit­i­ga­tion money.

ADRIAN WYLD THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter of In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Chrys­tia Free­land looks on as Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau de­liv­ers open­ing re­marks to the Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in Ottawa, Thurs­day.

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