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Communities are the engines of Canada’s economy and the hub of human development, but Canada’s mayors must think the Liberals and Conservatives have forgotten this fact.

Cities and towns must have adequate, long-term fiscal and political resources to do this job well, as the mayors have said. They want to see the $60 billion infrastructure deficit erased within 20 years. This requires a 20-year commitment to continue the “gas tax” funding transfer to municipalities.

Mayors want to see the “New Deal for Cities and Communities” strengthened and they want to be involved in political negotiations that affect them. Yet the Liberals have offered comparatively little to rebuild strong communities.

There would be no funding increases, but they would make the “Gas Tax Transfer” permanent. They promise a new “Community, Sport and Recreational Facility Fund” with $350 million over five years. This is pennies for communities and the kids who need those services. Meanwhile, they are proposing tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit corporations and the wealthy.

The Conservatives are prepared to commit even less. They would not increase funding and they would loosen criteria for spending, so that less money would go to public transit, infrastructure and housing.

Harper’s proposed tax cuts represent billions of dollars that could go to strengthening the social and economic base of Canada’s communities. Instead it will go to weakening our social fabric and lining the pockets of the wealthy.

A vote for either Liberals or Conservatives is a vote for privatization and greater inequality, as we watch our community infrastructure continue to crumble. Without public programs and public delivery, increased isolation and exclusion of individuals will accompany the sell-off of public assets and services.

The NDP’s agenda for municipalities includes an increase to the “Gas Tax Transfer” to municipalities to the full five cents per litre right away (not five years from now). This would be used for public transit and other sustainable infrastructure. Instead of spending public money on tax cuts, it will go to a national housing program, immigrant settlement, clean air and water laws, safe streets and other strong community initiatives.

Even a pro-business lobby group, the Toronto Board of Trade, had to admit that NDP policies would be good for Toronto. They couldn’t say this about either Harper’s or Martin’s tax cuts. Both would redirect money away from investment in communities.

The board recognizes that productivity, measured by social well-being in day-to-day life, requires more than just economic policy designed to boost gross domestic product (GDP). Social investments are key to sustaining vibrant communities and economic growth.

Proper attention to positive community building through public programs, services and adequate infrastructure funding is what Canada needs.

That is what the NDP will do: Vote positive. Vote Public.