Municipal leaders from B.C. and across Canada are meeting in Ontario later this week to talk finances.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention kicks off Thursday in Toronto and high on the agenda is money.
Cities say they’re facing massive challenges made even more urgent by pandemic recovery.
Cities are the economic engines of Canada as the latest census shows almost three-quarters of Canadians live in the country’s biggest cities, but municipal leaders said they’re the poor partners of Canada.
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“I think that we really need to recognize that we are not keeping up. We’re not keeping up with the pace of change,” said Vancouver city councillor Lisa Dominato.
B.C. municipalities own 31,000 kilometres of roads, and 54,000 kilometres of pipes, according to provincial statistics.
“We have communities and neighbourhoods that have been waiting for schools for almost a decade. We have crumbling infrastructure in terms of our community centres,” Dominato said.
Delegates to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Convention will debate an emergency resolution in the coming week, calling on Ottawa to get involved.
Vancouver’s former chief planner Brent Toderian, who now consults for cities around the world, said Canada’s funding model sets municipalities up to fail.
“It’s a frustrating deja vu because this is not a new ask. This is an ask that has happened every couple of years since as long as I’ve been a city planner and that’s 31 years,” Toderian said, a municipal consultant.
“Cities in Canada have always been behind the eight-ball in a no-win situation. It’s been getting worse and worse as the years go on and it’s certainly worse now after the pandemic. Cities get pennies on the dollar, in terms of taxes, and it’s a perfect storm for failure.”
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The federation is hosting a discussion on the topic of change needed to address municipal financial concerns.
“The status quo isn’t working anymore. As Canada emerges from the pandemic, our municipalities are facing a perfect storm: inflation, shifting demographics, ageing infrastructure, climate crisis, and housing challenges,” federation staff said online.
Ottawa doles out billions to build infrastructure but municipality officials said that just covers part of the construction, then they’re left to pay for operation and maintenance afterwards.
Also, a growing population is just adding to the problem, officials said.
“In Metro Vancouver alone right now, we’re upgrading three wastewater treatment plants in order to address federal regulatory frameworks,” Dominato said. “And that’s why this conversation at FCM next week is critically important to advancing support for municipal governments across the country.”
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