OPINION: Best election strategy — work with municipalities

With a federal election on the horizon, there are many local and regional issues that need to be addressed by candidates and political parties.

It is increasingly clear that the challenges and opportunities Canada faces as a country are playing out in cities and local communities.

We talk about shocking property prices, lament poor transportation options and rising poverty rates, but have mostly considered these issues in isolation rather than thinking about the bigger picture.

The discussions we have about ongoing problems at city hall have focused on a lack of support from higher levels of government and the unsustainable reliance on reserve funds in recent years.

Upper levels of government need to support cities ability to leverage emerging technologies such as data analysis, sensor technologies, cloud-computing and information communication technologies to solve widespread urban issues.

For example, did you know that London will have an infrastructure gap of $466.1 million by 2022 – a backlog of delayed repairs and construction that hurts every family and business in our city?

How has this happened? Revenue imbalance. Municipalities own over 60 percent of the country’s infrastructure but collect just eight cents of every tax dollar paid in Canada, with the other 92 cents going to federal and provincial governments.

On their own, municipalities don’t have the revenue tools to rebuild infrastructure, especially while they are expected to meet growing needs for policing, housing, the environment and immigrant settlement, including many responsibilities downloaded from other governments.

According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, “Modern and efficient infrastructure is a core component of a competitive economy. Public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, highways, water systems and the electrical grid provides services critical to economic competitiveness, sustainability and quality of life.

Without sufficient investment and upkeep of public infrastructure stock, countries rapidly fall behind.”

Improving our roads, bridges, and water systems is one of the best ways to create local jobs and generate $1.20 in annual GDP growth for each dollar invested.

Predictable investments in core municipal infrastructure are vital to keeping goods moving, businesses operating and maintaining a high quality of life for Canadians.

If Canada is to tackle the infrastructure demands over the next years, we will need to re-evaluate our existing processes for design, planning and development in cooperation with the tech industry to make smart decisions for our cities.

We need to call on all federal parties vying for government in this upcoming election to pledge their commitment on working with municipalities and provinces alongside the private sector to support innovative solutions to our national challenges found in our local communities.

Cities are the engines that drive our country forward, the places where we choose to work, raise families, contribute and engage with those around us. They are hubs of innovation and creativity.

This election needs to be about putting together a bold and forward-thinking vision for the future of our country — a course for a stronger, more livable Canada.

And it all starts in our own cities.

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.
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