05/31/2012 03:11 EDT | Updated 07/31/2012 05:12 EDT

Hazel McCallion: Harper Tories Underfunding Canadian Cities

Flickr: Églantine

SASKATOON - Canada's mayors say many cities are barely scraping by and need more money from the federal government for things such as roads, water and transit.

The mayors say cities currently get eight cents on the tax dollar and it isn't enough.

"We have racked up an enormous infrastructure deficit last estimated at $123 billion six years ago. We know that that's grown," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

"These concerns have been raised repeatedly. We're now at a key juncture where we have to have a commitment of long-term secure funding or we really face rolling off a cliff and dealing with mounting problems in our cities as they grow and struggle to remain viable."

The comments came as Robertson and other mayors gather in Saskatoon for the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

The mayors are pressing Ottawa to replace the Building Canada Plan, which ends in 2014.

The federal government in its 2011 budget committed to legislating a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in municipal infrastructure through the Gas Tax Fund. But the mayors are calling on Ottawa to index the federal gas tax fund to inflation.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, who has been at the helm of the Ontario city since 1978, recalled that it was a decade-long struggle to get the share of the gas tax. But she said it's time to act.

"We're in the global competition second to none and infrastructure will determine the future competitiveness of Canada," said McCallion.

McCallion said the current funding is "all ad hockery...a bit of this and a bit of that."

"The time has come. I think a crisis situation has occurred. Unfortunately, it takes a crisis situation to find answers to the problem. I believe we're at that point and now action much occur," she said.

Federal Minister for Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, Denis Lebel, is scheduled to speak to the group Friday.

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