Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Big city mayors ask feds for housing, gridlock cash

OTTAWA - Big city mayors say Canada loses $10 billion annually to gridlock and that a housing crisis looms without more guaranteed funding from the feds.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said cities need to know they'll get the "lion's share of new funding" and that the funding needs to be "protected" in the next federal budget.
"Cities should be doing more to keep Canada competitive," Robertson said Wednesday.
Lack of affordable housing and "crippling" traffic dissuade investors and makes recruitment difficult for Canadian cities, Robertson said.

A few days before the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) descended on the capital, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)released a report accusing the FCM of exaggerating its plight - at least financially.

The FCM's longtime claim that cities receive roughly eight cents on the dollar was really more like 15 cents when municipal fees and transfer payments from the provinces are included, the report states.

"I don't take issue with their calculations, just the way they're using their data," CFIB vice-president Laura Jones said.

But even Jones admitted that "no, that doesn't take aware from the seriousness of these urban issues."

Present for the first time at a FCM meeting was Toronto's crack-smoking mayor in name only, Rob Ford.

His message to the feds was that of the $14 billion New Building Canada Fund, of which $10 billion is for provincial and territorial projects of national interest, "I want my fair share."

"We need money for housing and subways," Ford said.

NDP urban critic Matthew Kellway said cities should be a higher federal priority.

"Cities are where Canada interfaces with the rest of the world," he said.
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