Municipal politicians from across the country flooded into Vancouver recently for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ convention. And while their backgrounds were diverse, their message was strikingly similar: fix the funding.
It’s not a new complaint. For decades, Canada’s municipalities have been telling Ottawa they need more money if they are to do the things they are increasingly expected to do. The complaints began in the 1990s when the federal government cut funding as it dealt with a ballooning deficit and public debt. As transfer payments to provincial governments shrank, so too did many of the services the federal government traditionally provided (like low-cost housing).
Today, cities are faced with providing services they never did in the past, particularly in the realm of social services, transportation and policing.
They’ve done this because they’ve had little choice. There is no one left to download the cuts to.
Instead, they must find new revenue from a taxpayer pool that is shallow and offers little flexibility. Deferring expenses is an option, but as roads and bridges deteriorate, it leads to an infrastructure deficit.
That’s left municipalities calling for a change in the way cities are funded.
According to a report released at the convention, municipalities only receive eight cents of every tax dollar raised, despite their expanding responsibilities.
There were promises of new money at the convention, but that’s not enough. What is needed is a change in the way the funding flows.
—Nanaimo News Bulletin