06/04/2015 06:57 EDT | Updated 06/04/2016 05:59 EDT

Big city mayors call for federal leaders' debate on crumbling infrastructure

EDMONTON - Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, speaking on behalf of Canada's big city mayors, called Thursday for a federal leaders' debate on municipal issues in the fall federal election.

"We want to see all Canadians have access and the opportunity to hear from these parties on their commitments to cities," Robertson told reporters.

"We will be working hard with the parties to have commitments from the leaders of the federal parties to see a debate on cities and communities happen in the fall election."

He said along with the debate they will be tracking the promises made by the parties when it comes to cities.

"We want to be sure that Canadians are aware of what those promises, what those commitments mean for our cities and communities," he said.

Robertson made the comments at a meeting of mayors of large cities across Canada under the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Robertson said it's clear that federal parties are listening.

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver will speak to the mayors Friday, and the mayors will also hear from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, and the Green Party's Elizabeth May.

Robertson said the big cities are focusing on transit, affordable housing and on infrastructure.

He said there has been funding help on transit, but said the cost of continued neglect on housing and infrastructure will be high.

"City infrastructure has been neglected for decades in Canada," he said.

"We've seen over 40 years now of declining investment in cities and communities, and we're behind the eight ball.

"We face a massive infrastructure deficit that is a huge burden for our cities to compete on the global stage."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he's pleased that the federal parties are at the conference to pitch ideas on how to fix cities.

"I think they've figured out that this upcoming election is going to be an election about urban issues," said Nenshi.

"I've been saying for some time that whoever gets cities right, and particularly who figures out how to cut commute times and who figures out how to help all Canadians have a safe, decent place to live gets to be prime minister."