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A new poll shows Canadians want to protect and increase federal spending on local public services and infrastructure – and they’re willing to pay higher taxes to do it.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities poll shows the recession hasn’t changed Canadians’ views on municipal infrastructure as a key federal spending priority.  The results show Canadians link municipal services and infrastructure directly to their quality of life. They also see community infrastructure as essential for a healthy economy.

Virtually all Canadians – 96 per cent – think the federal government should maintain or increase spending for local infrastructure. CUPE supports FCM’s call for a long-term economic plan that protects investments in cities and communities and rules out future offloading.

Nearly 70 per cent of those polled don’t want the deficit paid down by cutting infrastructure spending. Protecting funding to build and repair roads, bridges, drinking and wastewater systems and public transit was Canadians’ second priority, just behind health spending.

The poll is a follow-up to a 2008 FCM poll. The new results confirm Canadians’ support for reversing a 1 per cent cut to the GST, if the money went to support local infrastructure and services. Support to raise the GST for municipal infrastructure spending has grown since 2008, up six points to 70 per cent.

The vast majority of Canadians believe federal and provincial transfers should be the main source of infrastructure funding – not local service cuts or higher property taxes.

Strong public services and infrastructure are at the heart of Canada’s economic recovery. The FCM research highlights the need to solve the municipal funding crisis. Federal and provincial governments have severely cut transfers to local governments since the mid-1990s. CUPE economic research shows this created a funding shortfall as high as $7 billion in 2006 – about the same amount as is raised by one percentage point of GST.