OTTAWA – Today’s Federation of Canadian Municipalities poll confirms the federal government is on the wrong track and out of touch with Canadians’ priorities for their communities, says the president of the country’s largest union.
“Canadians are clear – they want spending that supports healthy, well-functioning communities, not more tax cuts,” says Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “Yet the federal government is underfunding municipalities and pushing privatization through public private partnerships (P3s). It just doesn’t add up.”
Moist says the Conservative government’s Building Canada infrastructure program doesn’t bridge the gap between municipal needs and federal funding shortfalls.
“The program doesn’t significantly increase federal transfers to municipalities, and won’t even keep pace with inflation after 2009. To make bad public policy worse, Building Canada promotes P3s that will cost municipalities more for less service,” he explains.
The poll shows the majority of Canadians believe it was a mistake to cut the GST. Instead, they want federal surpluses to be spent on improving the infrastructure and services that keep communities strong. Almost two-thirds of those polled said the federal government should increase the GST and invest the funds directly in local infrastructure.
Today’s findings bolster CUPE’s recommendations on how to solve the municipal fiscal imbalance. 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.
“Investing in public infrastructure is good for communities and good for the economy,” says Moist, referring to a newly-released Statistics Canada study. The study confirms that every dollar spent on public infrastructure generates about 17 cents in private-sector savings each year.
Well-funded infrastructure and services also create significant social spin-offs that build a stronger country. “Public services are powerful anti-poverty tools that build more equal and inclusive communities,” says Moist. “Today’s poll shows affordable housing is a top concern across the country, which confirms we’re a long way from eradicating poverty.”
“Community and economic well-being are a shared responsibility. Canadians won’t let provincial and federal politicians off the hook,” says Moist.
“CUPE members are on the front lines delivering public services in cities and towns. They are living the reality of downloaded services and shrinking funding. We join Canada’s municipal leaders in their call for increased, long-term funding from upper levels of government to keep our cities and towns strong.”
CUPE is Canada’s largest union, representing 570,000 women and men delivering public services in communities across the country, including 150,000 municipal workers.