The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) has called on Canada’s federal parties to commit to building safer, more sustainable communities and fostering a better municipal-federal relationship ahead of the Federal Election on Sept. 20.
That includes a call to permanently double the Canada Community-Building Fund with a predictable annual growth rate that better reflects economic growth and construction costs.
“Municipalities are the order of government closest to the people,” Mayor Rodger Hayward of Naicam, President of SUMA, said in a release.
“We understand the needs of our residents, and what we need is federal support to build communities that are safe and sustainable. We also need a relationship where we are at the table when discussions that impact our communities, like infrastructure funding and policing, are had.”
A SUMA spokesperson said municipalities collect approximately 10 cents of each Canadian tax dollar, but are responsible for nearly 60 per cent of the public infrastructure. That includes things like roads, water lines and waste disposal. The Canada Community-Building Fund provides funds the upgrading and replacing this infrastructure, the spokesperson said, by providing predictable funding to municipalities of all sizes.
SUMA said the fund currently accounts for only two per cent of municipal revenues while the list of unfunded infrastructure projects grows. They said the federal government recognized the benefit of additional funding, by temporarily doubling of transfers in 2019 and again in 2021. That latest increase was designed to help municipalities cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, SUMA said municipalities and local economies need the program to be permanently doubled to help address infrastructure shortfalls and stimulate economic growth.
“Building safe, sustainable communities means ensuring that our most vulnerable residents are supported,” said Mayor Gerald Albers of Lloydminster, chair of SUMA’s City Mayors’ Caucus (CMC) and Vice-President of Cities said.
“While health and social services are primarily the responsibility of the province, all orders of government have a direct role to play to ensure their safety.”
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has also called for the fund to be permanently doubled. The two organizations say boosting the fund helps account for rising construction costs, while maintaining effective economic growth.
The request was one of several SUMA made on Thursday. The organization also said there needs to be reliable broadband in all communities, support for resource communities, support to help communities become more climate change resilient, national leadership in public safety and coordinated mental health and addictions support.
Saskatchewan’s city mayors and managers discussed issues important to the province’s largest municipalities on Thursday at a CMC meeting in Yorkton.
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald