Canada’s municipalities want the federal government to avoid the middlemen and send them their allowances directly and without delay.
Given that the middlemen in this instance are the nation’s provincial governments, can you blame the burgermeisters for their impudence?
The country’s tripartite system of democratic rule has been, since Confederation, both a blessing and a curse. Lately, it’s been more of the latter than the former.
Cities – big ones, in particular – have become the indisputable magnets for international and domestic migration. Simply put, these are where most people in Canada now live, work, build businesses, and care for their families; in the process, they exert enormous pressures on physical, technological, social and economic infrastructure. These burdens are now beyond the capacities of many urban areas to shoulder.
At a recent meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, several mayors made their case.
Said Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi: “Ideally, the funds should flow directly from the federal government to the municipalities. If we have to involve the provinces in another layer of authority, it’s going to slow everything down.”
Added Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson: “Prime Minister Trudeau is breaking down the silos between cities, provinces, federal government and First Nations. Canada’s cities compete against cities around the world that have more jurisdiction, more tax revenue to work with. And frankly for us to compete economically, our cities need to have more resources and (a) stronger partnership with the federal government.”
Or, as Montreal’s Denis Coderre declared, “Cities are no longer just creatures of the provinces.”
Uh-huh. . .Tell that to the provinces. Here, in New Brunswick, this is exactly what the province’s three major cities are: creatures of provincial jurisdiction.
We love talking about our civic innovation, vibrant cultural amenities, dynamic entrepreneurship and “punching above our weight”. But, let’s face it, we’re still fly-weights in the arena of government funding and, with populations denuding across this province of ours, we’re not likely to land a palpable blow against the status quo anytime soon.
Still, perhaps we can learn from our more muscle-bound brethren across Canada (you know, in case we do have an even chance of someday emerging from our 98-pound-weakling cocoons).
According to a recent survey conducted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, “The 2016 (infrastructure poll) included a section on asset management for the first time. These questions shed light on the state of Canadian municipal asset management practices. Survey results point to varied asset management practices according to community size. For instance, 62 per cent of large municipalities, 56 per cent of medium-sized municipalities and 35 per cent of small municipalities reported having a formal asset management plan in place. All communities, particularly smaller municipalities, would benefit from increased asset management capacity.”
Read: More direct control over federal government assets specifically targeted at municipalities; fewer provincial middlemen.
In fact, the prime minister does seem cautiously optimistic about embracing a new paradigm for cities – though, by doing so, he would surely bite off a chunk of constitutional reform that would, by comparison, render a Senate makeover appear like child’s play.
“We are restarting a relationship that had been significantly neglected over the past 10 years,” Mr. Trudeau said at the mayors’ meeting. “Ensuring that we get the money flowing in a responsible and rapid way is a priority for all of us.”
If ‘Dad’ and his cabinet do manage to pull this off, of course, think of all the money that would liberate for the provinces to. . .oh, I don’t know. . .lure multinationals.
After all, middlemen never waste money.