EDMONTON—Working with municipalities to support the construction of affordable housing, public transportation and critical infrastructure are elements of federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s upcoming election platform.
"Today municipalities still do not have the resources they need to deliver the services citizens expect and the economy is suffering. That isn’t sustainable and it isn’t fair," said Trudeau to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) at its annual conference in Edmonton.
"There is no shortage of ideas, but we are falling short in giving our cities and towns the infrastructure they need to attract new businesses and jobs. It is time for a new agreement between our municipalities, provinces and the federal government."
One of the main issues of concern for more than 2,000 mayors, city councillors and participants is the 42nd Canadian general election, which is scheduled to occur on Oct. 19, 2015.
"It’s time for a new revenue source dedicated and delivered to local governments," said Trudeau.
"Substantial, stable and predictable funding for infrastructure has been at the heart of our decision-making over this past year, and you will see that reflected deeply in our election platform this fall. You will also see a strong focus on the idea of fairness."
According to Trudeau, municipalities deliver more than 60 per cent of all services to citizens, but collect between eight and 12 cents on every tax dollar collected by all levels of government.
In addition, the federal government has half of the fiscal capacity of all levels of government, but it only makes 12 per cent of total infrastructure investments.
In response to this challenge, Trudeau outlined the Liberal party’s election platform, which includes four main areas of strategic infrastructure investment.
"Our platform will include measures to encourage the construction of new affordable purpose built rental housing," he said.
"It will outline what we see as a new federal role in housing. It will include investments in new innovative programs for supportive housing as well as predictable and sustained new funding for affordable housing."
The second plank in the Liberal party’s policy platform is public transit and transportation.
This issue is of particular importance for larger cities where a lack of investment is causing congestion and a decline in productivity.
For example, the CD Howe Institute estimates congestion costs the economy in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area about $6 billion per year.
However, this estimate could increase by $1.5 billion a year if the impact of congestion on relationships among firms and people are taken in to account.
"We will also propose new and innovative ways to mobilize alternative sources of capital, such as pension funds," said Trudeau.
"We will make it easier for municipalities to put shovels in the ground, by removing the requirement that virtually every project must go through an onerous P3 (public-private partnership) screening."
The third plank in the Liberal’s policy platform is climate change, which is causing drought, coastal erosion, ice storms, forest fires, floods and hail storms.
"With each passing day, one thing becomes more obvious," said Trudeau.
"Much of the infrastructure we have now was built for a climate that no longer exists. If we don’t make it a priority to build more resilient communities, we are putting our citizens, our environment and our economy at risk."
The final plank in the election platform is smart cities or finding a way of extending the smart adaption and deployment of data and technology across Canada.
"In 2015, it is impossible to have good government without good data," said Trudeau.
"That is why, if we form government, we will immediately restore the long form census to give communities across Canada the information they need to serve residents best.
"The Liberal government will also help communities find investments to make better use of data and technology, greater integration between transportation and IT systems, which will help cities work better for Canadians."
Follow RICHARD GILBERT on Twitter @buildingcanada.