Canada’s big-city mayors have a wish list for Ottawa—except for Rob Ford
With the budget coming next week from the federal government, one big question is whether, or what, Ottawa will has in store for Canada’s biggest cities. Traditionally, urban centres haven’t been a priority for the Conservative government, which a) talks a big game about respecting the constitution when it keeps them from doing something they don’t want to do, and b) doesn’t have a lot to win, especially in the big three cities of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Nevertheless, the mayors of Canada’s big cities do have a list of things they’d like to see from Ottawa. Well, everyone except Rob Ford, who responded to the Globe and Mail’s inquiry with a three-word email: “Respect for taxpayers.” Undaunted, the reporter rounded up the mayors of other cities and got their hopes for next week.
- MONEY: It’s no surprise that everyone wants more money. What’s interesting is that these mayors, by and large, don’t just want handouts from the feds—they want to change the way money is raised in this country. (We’ve mentioned Naheed Nenshi’s ideas on this front before.) Basically, with stimulus funding running out, mayors across the country are united in saying there needs to be a new way to fund cities.
- INFRASTRUCTURE: If the feds and provinces aren’t willing to give cities some dedicated tax room to fix their own problems, the least they can do is address to most urgent stuff: crumbling roads and bridges, bursting water mains and the like. The main reason they’re worried is that there’s no sign this money is on its way.
- A LITTLE RESPECT: The first step is admitting that we have a problem. In this case, the “problem” is that the vast majority of Canadians live in cities, and according to some mayors there’s political resistance against just acknowledging this. Pat Fiacco, mayor of Regina, told the Globe, “I think politicians really need to pay attention, both provincial and federal, to the fact that the majority of Canadians live in cities. We could make this country a lot better if the federal government would actually allow municipal leaders to get involved… They don’t consider us important politically at all.”
While we would love to see all of these things in next week’s Conservative plan, we expect the budget will have much, much less than is needed for infrastructure spending, and absolutely nothing in terms of permanent funding for cities. (Prove us wrong, Prime Minister!) As for respect, the Conservatives are trawling for votes in cities, so some symbolic gesture might be just what the electoral doctor ordered. We’ll find out for sure on Tuesday. Stay tuned.