Balancing act

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Prime Minister elect Stephen Harper should take the advice of his Tory counterpart in Ontario when it comes to recognizing the unique and critical needs of Canada's major urban centres.

This week, John Tory, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, said the needs of Toronto and other cities should be front and centre in the new federal government's fiscal agenda.

"The reality of Canada in the 21st century dictates that new thinking is required and that cities must not be an afterthought in setting national goals but must be a centrepiece in those discussions," he said in a speech to the Canadian Club.

Queen's Park has long lamented the reality of the fiscal imbalance between the two levels of government. Premier Dalton McGuinty has routinely criticized the fact Ontario sends $23 billion more to the federal government than it gets back in cash transfers and services, while Ottawa racks up record surpluses. This funding inequity has a trickle-down effect on municipal governments, as downloaded services continue to force cities into the red. Hamilton has a budget shortfall of $45 million, and will again go cap in hand to the province for help to address this serious financial dilemma.

While Harper's Conservatives were able to earn a narrow minority government on January 23, they did so without seats in any of Canada's major urban cities - minus Calgary, where the Tories won every seat. Locally, Conservatives Dean Allison and David Sweet were able to capture suburban ridings, and will be called upon to represent the needs of Hamilton.

During the election, the Conservatives promised to work with Canada's major urban centres with the following campaign pledges: maintain funding for the New Deal for Cities and Communities and fully implement the transfer of the equivalent of five cents per litre of gasoline to cities and communities by 2009-10 to support municipal infrastructure; expand the New Deal to allow all cities and communities, including cities with more than 500,000 people, to use gas tax transfer dollars to improve road safety through the construction and repair of roads and bridges; develop a national Road Congestion Index to track progress in reducing road congestion, and work towards reducing congestion levels in municipalities across Canada and maintain the existing federal infrastructure agreements that have been entered into between the federal government, the provinces, and municipalities, including the Border Infrastructure Fund, the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund, the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, and the Infrastructure Canada Program.

While it's encouraging to hear the Conservatives recognize the plight of major urban cities, it's a stark contrast to 2004, when, while campaigning, Harper played to rural voters about the Liberal plan for Canada's larger urban centres.

"Cities are important, but the Liberals are obsessed with downtown cores," he said then, during a local campaign stop.

At the time, Harper said he did understand that cities need cash. Urban taxpayers can't afford to support decaying infrastructure and massive social costs. The well is dry at city halls across the country, and local taxpayers are fed up with getting less for more.

But Harper's plan for cities has always been far less generous than the other two major parties, and that reality cost the Conservatives seats in major urban areas across Canada this time around.

In the days after his election, Harper highlighted priorities for his government in the short term. Working to address the funding inequity between Ottawa and the provinces was not on the front burner. If the Conservatives have any hopes of earning majority power in the future, they need to find a way to gain support in Canada's major urban centres.

While we trust his word to honour agreements constructed by the previous Liberal regime, Harper needs to keep the city agenda on his immediate radar screen, or his time in office will be short-lived.

Balancing act

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Prime Minister elect Stephen Harper should take the advice of his Tory counterpart in Ontario when it comes to recognizing the unique and critical needs of Canada's major urban centres.

This week, John Tory, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, said the needs of Toronto and other cities should be front and centre in the new federal government's fiscal agenda.

"The reality of Canada in the 21st century dictates that new thinking is required and that cities must not be an afterthought in setting national goals but must be a centrepiece in those discussions," he said in a speech to the Canadian Club.

Queen's Park has long lamented the reality of the fiscal imbalance between the two levels of government. Premier Dalton McGuinty has routinely criticized the fact Ontario sends $23 billion more to the federal government than it gets back in cash transfers and services, while Ottawa racks up record surpluses. This funding inequity has a trickle-down effect on municipal governments, as downloaded services continue to force cities into the red. Hamilton has a budget shortfall of $45 million, and will again go cap in hand to the province for help to address this serious financial dilemma.

While Harper's Conservatives were able to earn a narrow minority government on January 23, they did so without seats in any of Canada's major urban cities - minus Calgary, where the Tories won every seat. Locally, Conservatives Dean Allison and David Sweet were able to capture suburban ridings, and will be called upon to represent the needs of Hamilton.

During the election, the Conservatives promised to work with Canada's major urban centres with the following campaign pledges: maintain funding for the New Deal for Cities and Communities and fully implement the transfer of the equivalent of five cents per litre of gasoline to cities and communities by 2009-10 to support municipal infrastructure; expand the New Deal to allow all cities and communities, including cities with more than 500,000 people, to use gas tax transfer dollars to improve road safety through the construction and repair of roads and bridges; develop a national Road Congestion Index to track progress in reducing road congestion, and work towards reducing congestion levels in municipalities across Canada and maintain the existing federal infrastructure agreements that have been entered into between the federal government, the provinces, and municipalities, including the Border Infrastructure Fund, the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund, the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, and the Infrastructure Canada Program.

While it's encouraging to hear the Conservatives recognize the plight of major urban cities, it's a stark contrast to 2004, when, while campaigning, Harper played to rural voters about the Liberal plan for Canada's larger urban centres.

"Cities are important, but the Liberals are obsessed with downtown cores," he said then, during a local campaign stop.

At the time, Harper said he did understand that cities need cash. Urban taxpayers can't afford to support decaying infrastructure and massive social costs. The well is dry at city halls across the country, and local taxpayers are fed up with getting less for more.

But Harper's plan for cities has always been far less generous than the other two major parties, and that reality cost the Conservatives seats in major urban areas across Canada this time around.

In the days after his election, Harper highlighted priorities for his government in the short term. Working to address the funding inequity between Ottawa and the provinces was not on the front burner. If the Conservatives have any hopes of earning majority power in the future, they need to find a way to gain support in Canada's major urban centres.

While we trust his word to honour agreements constructed by the previous Liberal regime, Harper needs to keep the city agenda on his immediate radar screen, or his time in office will be short-lived.

Balancing act

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Prime Minister elect Stephen Harper should take the advice of his Tory counterpart in Ontario when it comes to recognizing the unique and critical needs of Canada's major urban centres.

This week, John Tory, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, said the needs of Toronto and other cities should be front and centre in the new federal government's fiscal agenda.

"The reality of Canada in the 21st century dictates that new thinking is required and that cities must not be an afterthought in setting national goals but must be a centrepiece in those discussions," he said in a speech to the Canadian Club.

Queen's Park has long lamented the reality of the fiscal imbalance between the two levels of government. Premier Dalton McGuinty has routinely criticized the fact Ontario sends $23 billion more to the federal government than it gets back in cash transfers and services, while Ottawa racks up record surpluses. This funding inequity has a trickle-down effect on municipal governments, as downloaded services continue to force cities into the red. Hamilton has a budget shortfall of $45 million, and will again go cap in hand to the province for help to address this serious financial dilemma.

While Harper's Conservatives were able to earn a narrow minority government on January 23, they did so without seats in any of Canada's major urban cities - minus Calgary, where the Tories won every seat. Locally, Conservatives Dean Allison and David Sweet were able to capture suburban ridings, and will be called upon to represent the needs of Hamilton.

During the election, the Conservatives promised to work with Canada's major urban centres with the following campaign pledges: maintain funding for the New Deal for Cities and Communities and fully implement the transfer of the equivalent of five cents per litre of gasoline to cities and communities by 2009-10 to support municipal infrastructure; expand the New Deal to allow all cities and communities, including cities with more than 500,000 people, to use gas tax transfer dollars to improve road safety through the construction and repair of roads and bridges; develop a national Road Congestion Index to track progress in reducing road congestion, and work towards reducing congestion levels in municipalities across Canada and maintain the existing federal infrastructure agreements that have been entered into between the federal government, the provinces, and municipalities, including the Border Infrastructure Fund, the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund, the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, and the Infrastructure Canada Program.

While it's encouraging to hear the Conservatives recognize the plight of major urban cities, it's a stark contrast to 2004, when, while campaigning, Harper played to rural voters about the Liberal plan for Canada's larger urban centres.

"Cities are important, but the Liberals are obsessed with downtown cores," he said then, during a local campaign stop.

At the time, Harper said he did understand that cities need cash. Urban taxpayers can't afford to support decaying infrastructure and massive social costs. The well is dry at city halls across the country, and local taxpayers are fed up with getting less for more.

But Harper's plan for cities has always been far less generous than the other two major parties, and that reality cost the Conservatives seats in major urban areas across Canada this time around.

In the days after his election, Harper highlighted priorities for his government in the short term. Working to address the funding inequity between Ottawa and the provinces was not on the front burner. If the Conservatives have any hopes of earning majority power in the future, they need to find a way to gain support in Canada's major urban centres.

While we trust his word to honour agreements constructed by the previous Liberal regime, Harper needs to keep the city agenda on his immediate radar screen, or his time in office will be short-lived.