Federal Budget will impact Canadians in every community (12/04/2016)
The following op-ed was published in the Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Sun on April 12, 2016.
By Raymond Louie, President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
To most Canadians, federal budgets may seem a little distant or far removed from the realities of their daily life. But that certainly wasn't the case on March 22, when Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered Budget 2016. This year, Canadians will see and feel the impact of the federal budget. And they'll feel it in the communities they call home.
The unprecedented infrastructure investment we saw in Budget 2016 is a critical step forward in improving the quality of life for Canadians. It will mean shorter commutes in our cities because transit systems can be better maintained. It'll mean more affordable housing for seniors and our most vulnerable. It'll mean more community centres for our young people and better broadband access in rural areas. And it'll mean a more sustainable future for our children.
Municipal leaders have been calling for this kind of investment for quite some time. We understand that when you invest in local communities, the country as a whole is better off. But the truth is, it's not just mayors, reeves and councillors who welcomed this infrastructure investment. Canadians, too, know that these investments are needed. In fact, according to an Abacus poll commissioned just before the budget, 74 per cent of Canadians agree that investing in community infrastructure should be a priority for the federal government.
So let's look a little more closely at what Canadians have been asking for, and how it will impact our communities.
We all know that public transit is a smart mode of transportation in our cities. Budget 2016's $3.4 billion in new dedicated funding for public transit means that local transit systems can repair and refurbish their equipment and begin planning for expansion projects. More people using public transit also means cleaner urban environments and less greenhouse gas emissions. And it helps grow Canada's economy: For every $1 billion invested in transit, $3 billion in economic growth is generated.
It's hard to imagine anything more fundamental than ensuring that we all have an affordable place to live. That's why it was so important to see Budget 2016 include almost $1.5 billion over the next two years for affordable housing. Investments in housing provide families with the stability and security that will enable them to participate in their community and the economy. Every billion dollars invested in housing grows the economy by $1.4 billion and generates up to 13,000 jobs.
Water and waste water infrastructure is another essential part of keeping our communities healthy and livable. Many systems across Canada require major upgrades in order to meet new federal waste water regulations, while in other communities there is an urgent need to reinvest in aging treatment and distribution systems. Through an investment of $2 billion over four years in a dedicated Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, Canadians will start to see improvements right their communities — and in their homes.
Canadians want to live in green and sustainable communities and they want to leave a green legacy for their children. Budget 2016 delivers on that front. Through a combination of climate change mitigation and adaptation programming, Budget 2016 will help cities and communities lower GHG emissions and become more resilient to extreme weather incidents, like the floods and storms, that are now hitting our communities with more frequency.
Whether in urban Canada or in a rural or remote community, Canadians want to be connected with each other and the world. Budget 2016 increases dedicated funding for high-speed broadband Internet in rural and small communities by investing $500 million over five years. Rural Canada is home to more than 10 million Canadians and it generates one-third of Canada's GDP in sectors like agriculture and manufacturing. Expanding high-speed broadband is about creating local jobs so that young people don't have to move away to find opportunity, and it's about providing rural entrepreneurs with equal access to broadband Internet so they can grow their business where they live.
Budget 2016 shows what's possible when all orders of government work together. With this new, stronger relationship between the federal government and municipalities, this budget delivers results for all Canadians. And it builds the foundation of a stronger, more vibrant and more sustainable Canada.