CONTRIBUTION: Liberal Victory Great For Municipalities and London

Municipalities across Canada are celebrating the results of the recent federal election because it should usher in a new era of a much more cordial working relationship with the federal government.

Just as importantly, that fresh relationship should start with billions of dollars more for important local infrastructure investments in towns and cities across Canada, and millions for London. Canada’s municipal leaders worked hard to get the issue of infrastructure renewal on the federal agenda.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his campaign team discovered what municipal observers have been hollering aboutLRT Rapid Transit for some time—most of the voters in Canada are in urban centres! By developing campaign promises and strategies that appealed to urban dwellers, Mr. Trudeau tapped-in to the pent-up demand for a fresh approach between municipalities and Parliament.

It was smart thinking. Mayors and councillors have been urging MPs and federal candidates to understand this fundamental reality for some time. Now it has happened, and municipalities are well-positioned to work with the Trudeau government on critical infrastructure investments.

That is also why mayors across Canada have welcomed the federal election results and predicted the dawning of a better relationship between Canada’s federal and local governments. After a decade of a federal government without an urban agenda and without much interest in working with local governments, this is a huge step forward for towns and cities across the country.

The new Cabinet includes a Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities headed by a former Edmonton city councillor.

In a time of a global search for talent as the world’s population ages in many developed countries, attracting and retaining young talent, families and investments are going to be critical for Canadian cities that want to compete successfully on the international stage. That is also why infrastructure investments are so important—we have to keep up with attractive, modern and hi-tech cities in China, Korea, India and other emerging regions.

Mr Trudeau’s campaign promises of $125 billion for new spending on infrastructure, and a relatively unhampered local priority-setting, are two crucial new elements that can only benefit our municipalities and our national economy.

While no one is expecting cheques next week, this can be an important early-stage success story for the new Prime Minister to get things rolling with our municipalities.

With two new MPs from London, the city should have a strong voice in caucus. Kate Young in London West and Peter Fragiskatos in London North Centre have strong roots in this city. They can be effective advocates for London.

The election of a strong Liberal majority government has another ringing storyline for politicians—the triumph of hope, vision and a positive campaign. After what has been a decade of brutish government, a sour tone and a closed and top-down federal structure, Canadians decided that it was time for a change.   From a purely political science point of view, it will be quite fascinating to see if any of that translates into future municipal campaigns, or even if that tone and approach leaks across the 49th parallel into the vicious and mean-spirited US presidential primaries.

Overall, however, Canada’s municipal leaders should be tremendously proud of what they have accomplished in pushing the infrastructure agenda forward. It has been a significant effort and an important victory for our towns and cities. The commitment to dramatically-higher federal infrastructure investments is a substantial step forward for local governments across the country.

It is now up to our municipal leaders to continue to gently press forward with the new Cabinet and caucus to continue to seek and develop a new, better and stronger relationship between our local and our federal governments. Both are so crucial to Canada’s economic prosperity in the years ahead.

London has a variety of large, important infrastructure needs, beginning with the future of rapid transit, the opportunity of the Thames River and its connections to the community, continued renewal of our downtown and other major projects.

City Council now has a clear opportunity to move London forward.

Gord Hume
Gord Hume
Gord Hume is a contributor to the London Institute and is recognized as one of Canada's leading voices on municipal government and is an articulate and thoughtful commentator on civic government and community issues. He is a very popular public speaker, an advisor to municipal governments, and a respected and provocative author. Gord was elected to London City Council four times. He has had a distinguished career in Canadian business, managing radio stations and as Publisher of a newspaper. Gord received two “Broadcaster of the Year' awards. He is now President of Hume Communications Inc., a professional independent advisor to municipalities.
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