As the annual "Council of the Federation" meeting concludes in Winnipeg this week, provincial premiers have once again called on the federal government for increased funding and flexibility to address provincial and territorial priorities. However, in the midst of these demands, they seem to overlook the desperate pleas of their own municipalities, which have long been seeking fair and equitable funding agreements with their respective provinces.
While I anticipate hearing premiers' complaints about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau causing financial hardships for provinces and treating them as second-class citizens, it is important to recognize the hypocrisy at play. Provincial leaders, who themselves seek a better deal from the federal government, fail to address the concerns of their municipalities, leaving them in a state of financial distress.
The unfortunate truth is that a disconnect exists, highlighting a troubling pattern of provincial and territorial governments neglecting the needs of the communities they are meant to serve.
This becomes evident when municipalities voice their grievances, only to be met with silence from the premiers. The downloading of responsibilities onto municipalities by the provincial governments does not make the issue disappear; it merely exacerbates the challenges faced by another level of government.
To illustrate this point, let's take a closer look at Alberta, where there is currently a staggering $30 billion infrastructure deficit. Municipalities bear the weight of this burden, and the recently introduced Local Government Fiscal Fund falls far short of addressing this massive deficit.
Similarly, in Saskatchewan, municipalities have pleaded for improved funding agreements, yet their calls have gone unanswered.
It is crucial to update fiscal frameworks to address the issues of the present rather than clinging to outdated models from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Colin Best, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, emphasized the need for such updates during a discussion for an upcoming summer episode of Cross Border Interviews.
As provincial leaders depart from Winnipeg, they must not forget that their own municipalities are grappling with immense challenges and desperately need support. It is high time for provinces and territories to engage in annual meetings behind closed doors with municipal leaders for frank conversations.
Our local communities, regardless of size or location—from Prince Edward Island to the shores of British Columbia—are the backbone of our provinces and territories. Yet, their concerns and needs have been consistently disregarded.
Before provincial premiers seek a better deal from the federal government, they must fulfill their responsibilities towards their municipalities and provide them with the necessary resources to thrive. It is disheartening to hear about the disconnect between provincial governments and their municipalities, as shared by municipal leaders across Canada. These local communities are at the forefront, addressing the daily needs and concerns of their citizens.
Municipalities are responsible for vital services, including infrastructure, water, mental health and addiction support, and public safety. Yet, they struggle due to inadequate funding and a lack of attention from provincial counterparts.
This situation demands a change in approach. All Canadian premiers must prioritize the needs of their municipalities and work towards equitable funding agreements that address their financial challenges.
Municipalities should not suffer in silence while their provincial leaders demand better deals from the federal government. Provincial governments must recognize that a strong and prosperous province depends on thriving municipalities.
This is a prime opportunity for Canada's premiers to demonstrate true leadership and solidarity with their municipalities. They must listen to the calls for equitable funding and take immediate action to address infrastructure deficits, rising costs, and other financial struggles faced by local communities.
Only through collaborative efforts and adequate support for all levels of government can we build a stronger and more resilient nation.
We cannot overlook or dismiss the financial challenges faced by municipalities across the country.
It is time for provincial leaders to acknowledge the critical role of municipalities, address their funding concerns, and work together to build a better future for all Canadians.
Let us strive for a fair and equitable society where all communities thrive, and where political hypocrisy becomes a thing of the past.