Mayors get no promise of new federal funding for housing
Big city mayors talk housing, infrastructure, Canada Post
The mayors from Canada's largest cities gathered in Ottawa on Wednesday to call on the federal government to pony up more cash for housing and infrastructure funding, while raising concerns about the decision by Canada Post to end urban home mail delivery.
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"Today, the big city mayors are calling on the federal government to take practical steps to build stronger cities and a stronger economy," Gregor Robertson, the mayor of Vancouver and chair of the big city mayors caucus told reporters gathered at Ottawa city hall.
"We are concerned that high housing costs and transportation gridlock are preventing our cities from reaching their full potential."
The mayors spent an hour this afternoon meeting with Candice Bergen, the federal minister of state for social development, discussing federal funding for affordable housing.
In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the federal minister did not promise any new money for housing and even conceded there was little she could do.
"She, quite frankly, said she's not the finance minister, she's not going to announce funding that we were looking for."
"We're looking for a $1.7-billion investment," Watson said.
Bergen told the mayors that the federal government and the Canadian taxpayers are already doing their "fair share" on this issue, a source close to the discussions told CBC News.
A written statement sent to CBC News after Bergen's meeting with the mayors said, "At the end of these agreements, the federal government will have fulfilled its commitments and the funding will end."
"That is why Economic Action Plan 2014 confirmed that we will continue to work with provincial and territorial governments, municipalities, the FCM and other stakeholders at the community level to ensure that social housing helps those most in need achieve economic independence," Bergen said in the written statement.
Infrastructure funds, Canada Post in focus
The federal government's key infrastructure plan was also a main topic of discussion as numerous questions remain on how the federal funds will be used to meet local needs.
"The last federal budget was a big disappointment," Robertson said.
Ottawa recently announced the details of a 10-year, $14-billion New Building Canada Fund designed to provide both small and large communities with predictable infrastructure funding. Of that, $10 billion has been earmarked to fund provincial and territorial infrastructure projects.
Under the new plan, Ontario will receive $2.7 billion over 10 years from Ottawa, the most federal dollars of any province. Quebec will receive $1.7 billion and British Columbia just over $1 billion over 10 years under the new plan.
Robertson said the mayors are calling on both the federal and provincial government to "guarantee" that the lion's share of the new infrastructure fund goes to cities for local projects.
The mayors said they are also concerned about the changes recently brought in by Canada Post, which they say they weren't consulted about.
Watson passed a resolution calling on Canada Post to "halt the elimination of door-to-door delivery until concerns are addressed through meaningful consultations with municipalities," according to a spokesperson for the mayor.
Another resolution also urged Canada Post "not to download the costs and maintenance of community mailboxes onto municipalities," Watson's office told CBC News in an email.
Robertson and representatives from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the group that organized today's gathering, will be meeting with Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney to discuss emergency preparedness.
"Tomorrow's meeting is to discuss the Harper government’s commitment in Economic Action Plan 2014 to provide $200M for disaster mitigation projects in Canada," Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, a spokesman for Blaney told CBC News.