Road levy. Recreation and culture levy. Transportation for tomorrow tax. Dedicated road tax. Asset levy. Make no mistake: we want our cities to invest in infrastructure. Sewer, water, roads; these are core responsibilities of local government. But repackaging this spending with a new tax is a slap in the face.
In Ottawa, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) will once again convene a meeting of its 21 big city mayors. FCM is assembling the Big City Mayors' Caucus in advance of the federal budget, building on discussions which have been underway ever since the new government took office in late 2015.
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. These issues are critical to the quality of life of Canadians and they need to be front and centre in this election campaign.
Cities have to spend this money, taken from local taxpayers, because Canada's medicare system is the only universal, public health care system among developed countries that does not include universal coverage of prescription drugs. It is not wrong for cities to care for their employees. But leaving these costs to the cities makes about as much sense as requiring every homeowner to maintain the roads and infrastructure surrounding their property. Here's why.
Despite being a vast land of mountains, forests and ice, Canada is an urban nation. Over 80 per cent of us live in large centres like Montreal, Toronto and Calgary, as well as rapidly growing communities like Regina, Surrey and Markham. This increasing concentration of people in cities is consistent with rapid urbanization over the whole planet.