Big City Mayors to Ottawa: We can help keep the engines running



    OTTAWA, Feb. 8 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's cities have an important role to
play in helping the Government of Canada meet its key priorities-strengthening
national competitiveness and promoting prosperity-but they need support in the
next federal budget.
    That was the message today as the mayors of Canada's largest cities
gathered in Ottawa to call on the federal government to remember Canada's
cities in the upcoming federal budget.
    "Our cities are engines of the national economy and, with support in the
next federal budget, we can continue helping to drive Canada's long-term
competitiveness and productivity," said Mayor Pat Fiacco of Regina, chair of
FCM's Big City Mayors' Caucus (BCMC). "But we can't do this without help. We
need the federal government to continue its investment in municipal
infrastructure to keep our cities competitive and help us meet Canadians'
expectations."
    The mayors said today's intense global competition requires Canada's
cities to have all the tools they need to be successful, starting with
resources to eliminate the municipal infrastructure deficit. They said they
are pleased by the federal government's stated commitment to extend the
federal gas-tax transfer. They called on the government to act on last fall's
House of Commons resolution to make the current gas-tax transfer permanent,
with an escalator to offset the effects of inflation and population growth.
    The mayors are supporting the federal government's commitment to
transportation, and reiterated their call for long-term federal investment in
transit that will deliver $2 billion a year to maintain and expand the system
to accommodate growing ridership. "Safe, reliable and efficient public transit
is essential to our cities," said Mayor Gérald Tremblay of Montreal. "It
creates significant benefits, such as improving our international
competitiveness, quality of life and environmental sustainability. A long-term
commitment will give us the tools to improve our productivity."
    The mayors also flagged affordable housing as a critical need that must
be addressed in the next budget. They called on the federal government to
adopt FCM's national action plan on homelessness and affordable housing, which
was released last month in Vancouver. "The scheduled expiry of all federal
social housing funding programs in March 2009 means that the government must
signify in this year's budget its intention to take action to end Canada's
affordable housing crisis," said Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best of London, Ont.
    Finally, the mayors addressed the urgent need to modernize the fiscal
system, which doesn't allow cities to develop fully and contribute to Canada's
economic growth. Cities must be able to count on revenue that grows with the
economy, for example through the transfer of the equivalent of one cent of the
goods and services tax to cities and communities.
    "The equivalent of one cent of the GST would generate some $5 billion a
year to renew our infrastructure," said Mayor Larry O'Brien of Ottawa."
    The mayors concluded by praising the government for its recent decision
to help communities hit by economic upheaval and offered to continue working
in partnership with the government to build a Canada with safe, sustainable
cities where everyone has a decent place to live.




For further information:

For further information: Maurice Gingues, (613) 907-6395

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Federation of Canadian Municipalities

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