BRIEF FROM THE FEDERATION
OF CANADIAN MUNICIPALITIES (FCM)
Canada has been a leader in fighting the global economic downturn.
Together all orders of government have taken coordinated action to create jobs
and protect families and businesses. Now, as growing uncertainty again
threatens world markets, the Government of Canada must continue working with
cities and communities to strengthen our economic foundations and protect our quality
Although stimulus spending is
over, Canada must build on the Economic Action Plan’s (EAP’s) successes.
The EAP overcame barriers to common sense cooperation
that too often keep governments from working together. By the end of
this year, municipalities will have built and helped pay for $10 billion in EAP
projects. In doing so, our communities are creating 100,000 jobs and meeting 50
per cent of the plan’s total jobs target.
The EAP came on the heels of other positive changes in the federal government’s
relationship with cities and communities. In the last few years, federal investments have helped municipalities
put police on the streets, repair social housing, and rebuild the roads,
bridges, water systems and public transit Canada needs to support families,
businesses and long-term economic growth.
Ottawa’s growing collaboration with municipalities has produced
policies and programs that deliver better
value for Canadians. The Building Canada Plan and permanent Gas Tax Fund are examples
of the long-term funding tools the country needs to properly maintain
infrastructure over 30, 50, and even 70-year lifespans. The government has also
worked closely with municipal officials to cut red tape, streamline funding
approvals and develop strong, practical environmental regulations.
With recent investments, the federal government has helped
municipalities repair some of the damage done to our communities by many years
of underinvestment and downloading. We cannot afford to lose that ground.
For decades municipalities have struggled to meet growing
responsibilities, including many downloaded by other governments. Without a
share of the income and sales taxes generated by new growth, communities have
been forced to raise property taxes, cut core services and, most often, put off
infrastructure repairs. The resulting infrastructure deficit is bad for
families, businesses and our economy.
The danger signs are all around
us: traffic gridlock, crumbling roads and bridges; rising policing costs;
and a housing shortage that puts new jobs out of workers’ reach. From St.
John’s to Montréal to Victoria, the symptoms
vary, but the cause is the same: a tax system that has taken too much out of
our communities and put too little back in.
Forty per cent of current federal investments in municipalities are
scheduled to expire by 2014. These are not
one-time stimulus dollars - they are core investments to repair roads, house
low-income seniors and keep police on our streets. These investments
must be protected and put on a long-term track.
In Budget 2011, the government
committed to work with municipalities, provinces, territories and the private sector to develop a new long-term
federal infrastructure plan. The new plan will give Canada the
opportunity to end the long decline in its municipal infrastructure, improve
public transit, and fight traffic gridlock. By expanding its collaborative,
long-term approach, we can achieve other important national objectives as well,
Supporting front-line policing
and community safety. During the past 30 years, an unsustainable share of Canada’s policing costs
have been shifted on to municipalities, either through direct
downloading or the inability of the RCMP to fulfill its full responsibilities. Today, municipal property taxpayers pay close to
60 per cent of Canada’s total policing bill - costs that are crowding out
other investments in roads, bridges, public transit and community services.
The federal government must continue supporting front-line policing
as part of its law and order agenda,
committing to renew soon-to-expire funding, stop all future downloading, and increase
cooperation among national, provincial, and municipal police forces to deliver
the very best value for every dollar invested fighting crime.
holes in Canada’s housing system: Rising housing prices and rental shortages are making it difficult for
communities to attract the workers they need to support the national economy.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of families, senior citizens and new immigrants struggle
to find adequate, affordable shelter. Chronic homelessness continues to put an
unsustainable burden on taxpayer-funded police forces, emergency rooms and
Federal investments must go beyond two- and three-year funding
cycles and support longer-term provincial, territorial and municipal housing
strategies. As a first step, the government should introduce tax incentives to
increase the construction of new rental units across the country, and renew
soon-to-expire affordable housing programs and subsidies.
Better planning, partnerships and programs: these are trademarks of
smarter government. That’s the kind of government we’ll need if Canada is to
create jobs, protect core services and balance its budget deficit in a tough
In Budget 2012, the federal government must build on the
intergovernmental partnership that has
breathed new life into our aging infrastructure and pulled us through the
darkest days of the global recession. Together, we can tear down the
silos that still stand in the way of serving taxpayers - and build a stronger, safer Canada.