There was a very telling disconnect earlier this week between what passes for priorities inside the Ottawa bubble and the issues that really matter to Canadians.
While federal leaders and backroom organizers debated the debates, Canadians were still stuck in traffic. They still worried about finding a home they could afford. They still faced the frustration of trying to be globally competitive with inadequate and aging infrastructure.
Last June, the 2000 municipal leaders, from the smallest communities to the biggest cities made a unified call for federal leaders' debate during the election campaign on municipal issues. The reason was very straightforward: building the economy of the future is not an abstract issue for most Canadians. It is about day-to-day realities, like their long commute to work; the high cost of housing; clean water; and public safety. The reality is that in the Canadian economy of the future, local solutions will drive national results.
To give just one concrete example: a C.D.Howe study shows that gridlock in the Toronto region alone costs the country up to eleven billion dollars in lost economic activity. That is close to the entire annual revenue of Canadian Tire. As this scenario repeats itself in other cities, like Vancouver, Montreal or Ottawa, the scope of the economic opportunity is clear. The potential to propel the entire economy forward is trapped on clogged highways and hobbled by deteriorating roads and bridges.
These issues are critical to the quality of life of Canadians and they need to be front and centre in this election campaign. Our call was always about more than staging an event. It was about elevating the dialogue in this election above the daily distractions of Ottawa politics. The federal government and municipalities need to build an effective partnership that targets local solutions to national issues.
We now need to move the debate in this election to street level where Canadians live, work and dream. We call on all Canadians to challenge their local candidates to say how they plan to work with your community to build a vibrant, dynamic and sustainable future.
The critical debates in this federal election have just begun because wherever you live -- St. John's, Rimouski, Pond Inlet, Sarnia, Brandon, Medicine Hat, Vancouver or Whitehorse -- the debate starts here. It starts with you.
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