Mayors to party leaders: Don't let Canada's urban economic engines stall



    MONTREAL, Sept. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - As party leaders prepare for next
week's national debates, mayors from across Canada want to know how they plan
to strengthen the city regions that drive the national economy and deliver the
day-to-day services Canadians count on.
    This was the message delivered today by the mayors of Canada's two
largest cities, Montréal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Toronto Mayor David Miller.
Joining them were Jean Perrault, President of the Federation of Canadian
Municipalities (FCM) and Mayor of Sherbrooke, Que., and Carl Zehr, Chair of
FCM's Big City Mayors' Caucus and Mayor of Kitchener, Ont.
    "Now, more than ever, cities are at the heart of our social, cultural and
economic development. In today's economic context we must ensure that cities
can effectively participate in the vitality, prosperity and growth of our
economy. In order to remain competitive, transport goods efficiently and
attract new talent, our cities require quality infrastructure, affordable
housing and first-rate recreational and cultural facilities. Right now
Canadian cities do not have the fiscal tools that are required to make these
new investments. The time has come for action and we must create a new dynamic
and be real partners. In order to achieve these goals we must realign the
roles and responsibilities of all levels of government," said Mayor Tremblay.
    "If they are to remain attractive, cities must offer citizens adequate
public transit infrastructure that responds to their needs. Currently, we're
the only G-8 country that doesn't have a national transit strategy. This needs
to change now so that Canadians can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and
better cope with the rising costs of gasoline," added Mayor Tremblay.
    Local governments are responsible for more than 50 per cent of the
country's public infrastructure, but receive just eight cents of every tax
dollar collected in Canada. Although the federal government has made some
positive financial decisions, cities face growing needs and new
responsibilities while remaining dependent on the regressive and inadequate
property tax.
    "The fiscal imbalance may be a memory on Parliament Hill, but it's still
a reality on our city streets," said Mayor Miller. "Homelessness, traffic
gridlock, crowded buses, and overstretched police departments are just some of
the symptoms. These problems are too big - and too important - to be solved on
the backs of property tax payers. These are national issues requiring national
leadership."
    The problem is most evident in Canada's aging roads, bridges, and water
and sewer systems. "The $123 billion municipal infrastructure deficit is a
drag on our national economy and our citizens' quality of life," said Mayor
Zehr. "We need national action to turn the tide on the infrastructure deficit
if we're going to secure the foundations of our future prosperity."
    "In recent years the federal government has done more to invest in the
places Canadians live and work," said Mayor Perrault. "It's made commitments
to help cities and communities meet some of their most urgent needs, including
funding for public transit and policing, and most importantly, the
introduction and permanent extension of the Federal Gas Tax Fund."
    "If the next government builds on these investments, and delivers
long-term funding that keeps pace with our growing needs, then we can ensure
Canada has the local infrastructure, public transit, affordable housing and
police services it needs to prosper in the 21st century," said Perrault.
    "But if the government doesn't resolve to deal with these issues once and
for all," Mayor Miller noted, "then despite today's investments, the
infrastructure deficit will continue to grow, our citizens will suffer, and
Canada's economy will under-perform. As our federal leaders prepare for the
national debates, they need to show that they' ready to build a stronger
Canada through stronger cities and communities," concluded Mayor Miller.




For further information:

For further information: Renée Sauriol, press attachée, Cabinet du maire
de Montréal, (514) 872-4894; Don Wanagas, director of communications, Office
of the Mayor of Toronto, (416) 206-4333; Michael May, Director of Corporate
Communications and Marketing, City of Kitchener, (519) 741-2935; Maurice
Gingues, Media Relations Officer, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, (613)
907-6395

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