British Columbia

Cities urge voters to consider what federal parties offer at local level

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has released their own platform tracker to see how the parties measure up on issues that matter to local communities, such as infrastructure costs, housing and transit.

Vote for parties prepared to finance local infrastructure, Federation of Canadian Municipalities recommends

Expansion of transit networks like SkyTrain in Metro Vancouver is a top issue for many municipalities. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The organization representing more than 2,000 municipalities across the country is calling on Canadians to vote for a federal party that will improve life locally, as well as nationwide.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has launched an online election platform tracker to show how the parties measure up on issues that matter to communities, such as housing affordability, transit and infrastructure funding. 

The federation is not endorsing a particular party, but is recommending voters support candidates whose parties are prepared to finance municipal projects.

According to Garth Frizzell, vice-president of the federation and a Prince George, B.C., city councillor, municipalities are responsible for 60 per cent of Canada's infrastructure but get only 10 cents on every tax dollar from Ottawa to pay for it. 

"Fifty years ago, when a lot of Canada was getting infrastructure built, we had a fraction of the responsibility," said Frizzell in a phone interview Thursday on CBC's Daybreak North. "Now things are breaking down."

Municipalities can generate more revenue themselves for projects by increasing property taxes, but Frizzell said those taxes are already "straining people as it is."

Vancouver mayor's concerns

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he has spoken with all the major federal party leaders, except for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, about his top concerns for the city, which include overdose death rates, housing affordability and transit expansion.

Stewart said the leaders of the NDP, Liberal and Green parties all indicated they are committed to these concerns, but he said the Conservative party is "walking backwards on these three major issues." 

Stewart says he has requested a meeting with Scheer for months but it's yet to happen. 

"I thought it was important for people to know this because we need to move the city forward," said Stewart in an interview Thursday on CBC's The Early Editiona day after he released a statement saying Scheer would make housing less affordable, cut funding for a SkyTrain extension to the University of British Columbia and halt progress on the overdose crisis.

From left, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

Party plans

According to the Conservatives' platform, the party plans on spending the same amount on infrastructure the Liberal government had allocated in its Invest in Canada Plan — more than $180 billion. The Conservatives' plan is to spread that money out over 15 years instead of 12, which the Liberals intend to do. 

The FCM is asking all parties to commit to a permanent doubling of the Gas Tax Fund, which is distributed by the federal government to municipalities and First Nations for local spending. The fund currently delivers more than $2 billion every year to more than 3,600 communities.

According to the federation, only the Green Party is committed to doubling that tax.

The federation's tracking tool says information on what the NDP and Liberal Party stances are on increasing the gas tax is coming soon. It does note the Conservative Party is not committed to doubling the tax and "does not provide clarity on how local infrastructure projects will be prioritized going forward."

"Who we elect locally is going to have a dramatic influence on what happens locally," said Frizzle, adding it is critical for voters to look at party platforms to find out what they are promising — and what they are not.

With files from Daybreak North


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