Tomorrow federal leaders will gather in Calgary for the second debate of the campaign. This time around the focus will be on municipalities.
This is not, of course, how the Globe and Mail is billing Thursday night's event. Officially the debate will centre on the economy. But it is difficult to imagine how a serious discussion on the strength of Canada's economy can avoid a substantial debate over the future of Canada's cities and communities.
Thirty-three municipalities in Canada produce more than 70 per cent of the country's GDP. Municipalities own 60 per cent of the public infrastructure including roads, bridges, public transit and water systems. And according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, for every dollar invested in transit, three more are generated in economic growth.
But Canadians don't need policy papers to tell them municipalities are at the centre of Canada's economy; it's obvious to all of us.
Imagine a discussion of the economy that does not touch on, where you live, where you work, where you shop, where you invest in a home, in an education, where your kids grow up.
The economy is not an abstract concept to be debated like some complex math equation. It is the day to day moments of our life that tell us whether it is safe to dream of something better for ourselves and for our children.
The truth is this: on Thursday night, if a party leader does not spell out a serious plan to work with cities and municipalities, then don't be fooled. They don't have a serious plan for jobs and the economy.
With that it mind, here are five questions federal political leaders need to answer in Thursday night's debate:
1. Gridlock is grinding down the economic potential of this country, what is your plan to reduce traffic congestion in Canada's cities?
2. Roads and bridges are the essential pathways to prosperity for our country. What is your plan to invest in municipal infrastructure over the long term?
3. The Bank of Canada calls the high cost of housing in this country, one of the economy's greatest domestic threats. What is your plan to make housing more affordable and to increase the supply of social housing for the country's most vulnerable?
4. Calgary knows all too well the cost to the economy of once in a generation natural disaster that are becoming increasingly frequent. What is your plan to ensure the engines of our economy are built to withstand the impact of climate change?
5. Rural Canada produces 30 per cent of Canada's GDP. For rural towns and remote communities to continue growing they need to be globally connected. What is your plan to bring broadband infrastructure to rural and remote municipalities?
We are now less than six weeks away from the federal election. The answers to these questions will tell Canadians which party has the best plan for the economy. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is keeping track of party promises on these issues.
Before Thursday night's debate, I encourage all Canadians to visit our policy tracker tool and review our roadmap. Let's see how the leaders' promises stack up against the real needs of the economy.
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