Tag Archives: Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Dear Dad: Send money soon

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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.

Not ever.

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Exactly why twitter is so aptly named

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With nearly 300 million twits mouthing off each and every day on what must be the most pudden-headed social-media platform ever created for, again, 300 million twits each and every day, one might have hoped that the mayor of New Brunswick’s capital city and the current president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities would have curbed his lip, or, at the very least, sit on his hands.

But, alas, no. Here’s what Freddy Town’s burgermeister, Brad Woodside, had to say about linguistic duality in New Brunswick on his Twitter feed last week:

“Bilingualism I understand, duality makes no sense. This should be on the table Mr. Premier as we look to save money. You asked.”

Indeed, Brian Gallant did ask. He just didn’t expect such an idiotic response.

Or, maybe he did. The young premier is, after all, proving himself to be an able political warrior – routinely stripping the veneer from his partisan opponents to reveal their true colours. Care for a game of bait and switch, anyone?

Poor, old Mayor Woodside. He knows not what strife he causes for himself by attempting to condense an extraordinarily complex and controversial subject into 140 characters or less. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. #Dumb@brucescribes.

Still, he’s in good and much more illustrious company than his own.

Twitter has been luring otherwise smart and accomplished public figures into thoughtlessness for nearly ten years. There’s just something about the freedom to whip off any stray thought that seems irresistible to those who should properly put down that tenth cup of coffee and head straight to bed.

According to a recent story in The Daily Mail online edition, “Shortly after it emerged that (former Republican governor of Florida) Jeb Bush had hired Ethan Czahor as his campaign’s chief technology officer, the Hipster.com co-founder set out to do some spring cleaning on his Twitter. But it was already too late to discreetly delete a handful of ‘jokes’ the Santa Monica product manager had made where he calls out ‘sl**s’ and frets about gay guys at the gym.

“‘New study confirms old belief: college female art majors are sl**s, science majors are also sl**s but uglier,’ one deleted tweet read, with an expired link. Other deleted tweets include a couple gay panic jokes Czahor made about working out at the gym. ‘When i burp in the gym i feel like it’s my way of saying, ‘sorry guys, but i’m not gay,’ another said.” 

Charming.

But no more so than former U.S. federal legislator Anthony Weiner, who, in 2011, tweeted what he apparently considered was the best of himself in tighty-whities. (“I did not have sex with that pair of underwear,” he was overheard, possibly apocryphally, to have insisted in private).

Meanwhile, that same year, occasional funnyman Gilbert Gottfried reportedly tweeted in the aftermath of the tidal wave that wrecked coastal Japan: They (the Japanese) don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.”

Then, there’s actor Jason Biggs who freelance San Diego writer Alex Matsuo reports, “found himself in hot water after he tweeted from his account @JasonBiggs,

‘Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?’ This tweet occurred 65 minutes after it was announced that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had crashed. Followers began to reply with their disgust over Biggs’ words.”

In this offensive company, Woodside is quite likely bush league.

Still, here’s a tip, mayor: When you want to issue an incendiary statement about linguistic duality in this province, don’t tweet it. Write an Op-Ed.

Then, put down that coffee, and get some rest.

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The tao of Toronto: Sickness becomes it

Toronto's mayor is as hazy as late afternoon look from Ward's Island

Toronto’s mayor is as hazy as late afternoon look from Ward’s Island

A mayor of a major metropolitan centre of Canada may skip a meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) for any number of reasons. He might, for example, be overwhelmed, juggling the urgent and competing demands of his office: negotiating with city workers, plotting the placement of new parks, fretting over the whereabouts of a certain video.

But Toronto honcho Rob Ford’s refusal to attend the FCM’s recent summit in Vancouver had more to do with principle than practicality. He just doesn’t like the cut of the organization’s jib, which, he thinks, luffs way too far to the left.

“Eighteen (Toronto) councillors flew out on Thursday,” he opined (according to the Globe and Mail) during this past Sunday’s edition of the radio show he co-hosts with his brother Doug, a Toronto councillor. “You know, the same councillors said ‘aw, you know, the city’s falling apart.’ Well where were they Thursday? Where were they Friday? You could shoot a cannon off at city hall.”

Mr. Ford’s implied contention that the FCM is a costly distraction from the real business of running a metropolis is oddly brave, given his own richly diverting circumstances these days. Beyond this, though, it misses the point. Canadian cities are, to varying degrees, facing serious challenges to their viability. And these challenges are, again to varying degrees, common right across the country.

The FCM is correct when it states in its 2013 Report on the State of Canada’s Cities and Communities that “The current division of powers encourages short term, informal and ad-hoc federal policies in the municipal sector, often designed without meaningful consultation with either municipal or provincial/territorial governments. The result is policies that respond to short-term political pressures and opportunities rather than address structural issues.”

The Federation wants Ottawa to “recognize the role of cities and communities in national prosperity, the challenges they face, and the national interest in vibrant, competitive and safe communities.” To do this, it demands a new deal with the feds that will “lead to the collaborative development of policies and programs that focus on those issues that remain unaddressed under outdated policies and jurisdictional obstacles.”

Those issues include: aging, even crumbling, transportation infrastructure; policing and public safety; affordable housing; and environmental protection.

The FCM’s 2012 report card notes that “a significant amount of municipal infrastructure rank between ‘fair’ and ‘very poor’—on average about 30%. The replacement cost of these assets alone totals $171.8 billion, nationally. . .More than half the roads surveyed fall below a rating of ‘good’: 32% are in ‘fair’ condition, and 20.6% are in ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ condition, for a total of 52.6%”

Meanwhile, “A mixed picture emerges for wastewater infrastructure, with 40.3% of wastewater plants, pumping stations and storage tanks in ‘fair’ to ‘very poor’ condition, and 30.1% of pipes in ‘fair’ to ‘very poor’ condition. The replacement cost for the wastewater infrastructure in ‘fair’ to ‘very poor’ condition is $39 billion. . .With wastewater infrastructure now subject to new and more stringent federal regulations, even good or very good wastewater infrastructure may require upgrading or replacement.”

Those, like Mr. Ford, who insist that none of this should yield a closer and more  productive financial partnership with Ottawa fail to appreciate that, in the hierarchy of indisputable federal responsibilities (forget economic development or science and technology funding) to Canadians, apolitical support for infrastructure ranks near the top. There is nothing Liberal or Conservative about a bridge that’s about to collapse or, for that matter, a downtown events centre in Moncton that may never get built.

Of course, politicians of all stripes make partisan hay reminding people about their proud rural traditions. That’s because the message is clean and simple, unsullied and uncluttered by the diversity of opinions and opportunities that cities cradle.

Still, increasingly, Canadians are a decidedly urban folk. Citizens and resident immigrants, alike, are heading to the cities, not the countryside, to make lives for themselves. It stands to reason that relevant public investment should follow them there.

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