Politics

Municipal leaders lay out federal election wish list: money for transit, climate change adaptation

Canadian municipal leaders are calling on federal parties to commit billions of dollars to improve local transit, cut emissions and protect communities against damage from extreme weather events due to climate change.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities seeking billions of dollars in long-term funding

Municipal leaders are delivering a wish-list for infrastructure and transit funding to federal leaders. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Municipal leaders are calling on federal parties to commit billions of dollars to improving local transit, cutting emissions and protecting communities from extreme weather damage due to climate change.

One day after the federal election officially kicked off, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is releasing its own "platform" — a list of recommendations to improve quality of life in communities across the country. The FCM will release the list at an event in Toronto today.

One key recommendation is to permanently double the Gas Tax Fund (GTF) transfer to help build and repair bridges, water systems and other critical infrastructure.

Last year, the fund sent $2.2 billion to 3,600 municipalities, amounting to about two per cent of local revenues. This year's federal budget included a one-time top-up of another $2.2 billion; FCM President Bill Karsten said the extra funds triggered a "surge" of work.

"Permanently doubling the GTF is the most efficient and effective step the next government can take to build better lives, in communities of all sizes," he said in a statement.

The FCM is also looking for a permanent, direct federal funding mechanism for public transit to help cut commute times and lower emissions. The report it's releasing today, called Building Better Lives, recommends keeping existing funding  in place through 2027-28, then committing $34 billion, or $3.4 billion a year, until 2037-38.

The FCM report also calls for more money to build resilience in communities threatened by extreme weather events caused by climate change.

'Front lines' of climate change

"Our cities and communities are on the front lines of new weather extremes," the report says.

"From more frequent floods and fires, to rising sea levels and melting permafrost, climate change is wreaking havoc on homes and businesses. By 2020, these climate effects will cost $5 billion annually — forecast to reach a staggering $43 billion by 2050."

Other recommendations include:

  • Boosting access to social and affordable housing for low-income Canadians, increasing supportive housing for people with mental illness or substance abuse issues and creating more culturally appropriate affordable housing for Indigenous persons.
  • Championing rural and northern communities, promoting internet access and local economic development.
  • Accelerating the move toward low-to-zero-emission transit and municipal fleet vehicles with $300 million a year for a decade starting in 2020-21. The report says that funding could replace half of the diesel buses on the road now with fully electric models by 2030.

Lawvin Hadisi, spokesperson for Toronto Mayor John Tory, said the mayor met with federal leaders ahead of the election to discuss priorities for the country's most populous city.

Tory made it clear in those meetings that Toronto needs support from the federal government to expand transit, build more affordable housing, invest in children and communities to address the roots of violence, and support those with addictions and mental health issues, Hadisi said.

"Commitments to addressing these key priorities will ensure that Toronto – the economic engine of Canada – continues to be a prosperous, livable, safe and affordable city for its residents," she said in an email.

"Now that the campaign is underway, the mayor looks forward to hearing more from the leaders of the parties on their plans to work with the city to continue its success and to address the record growth we are seeing in Toronto and across the GTA."

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