CUPE is calling on the federal and provincial governments to stop arguing over jurisdiction and get a deal done to help Canada’s local governments with critical funding shortfalls, which are leading to widespread loss of services and jobs.
Prime Minister Trudeau announced today that the federal government will fast-track this year’s $2.2 billion in gas tax funding for municipal governments. While this will help Canada’s cash-strapped local governments, the funding can’t be used for operating costs which are in a critical state.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has asked for $10 billion to help local governments cover their short-term operating costs, as revenues from property taxes and other fees plummet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For months, CUPE and our partners in local government have been sounding the alarm on the funding crisis that is wiping out jobs and services in municipalities across the country,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and Canadians have lost access to vital services during a pandemic. The time for arguing over jurisdiction ran out a long time ago.”
Trudeau said more help is coming, eventually, but that his government isn’t offering more direct support to municipalities to ward off shutdowns of key services like transit, because doing so would violate the jurisdiction of the provinces.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury, “but it doesn’t come close to meeting the scale of the crisis facing municipalities or our members who provide those front-line services in communities across Canada
CUPE has been calling on the federal government to allow municipalities to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which covers 75 per cent of wages for employers who have lost significant revenue as a result of the pandemic – but which so far has excluded public sector employers. Access to CEWS would take significant pressure off municipal budgets while keeping workers on the job in their communities.
“The prime minister can act right now, without infringing on provincial jurisdiction, by giving our cash-strapped cities and towns access to CEWS,” said Hancock.