OPINION: Time for the neglect to end

Time for the neglect to endEver wonder whether or not you are getting the best value out of your tax dollars that go to upper levels of government?

Unlike upper levels of government, municipalities don’t have extensive taxing powers and aren’t sanctioned to run deficits on their operating budgets. As a result, they don’t have the resources to upgrade existing infrastructure or to build new assets in order keep up with growing demands. London is projected to have an infrastructure deficit of $466.1 million by 2022.

Since 2003, the province of Ontario has invested nearly $100 billion in public infrastructure — mostly in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA). These projects include highways, roads, bridges, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, community centres and recreation projects.

So why is this a problem? Cities such as London and regional counties have been neglected. Why? Because Ontario has 107 ridings and 65 of those ridings are in the GTHA. The Ontario Liberal Party won a majority government with 59 seats in the legislature, most of which were in the GTHA and Ottawa. Most of the investments the provincial government has made in the past 12 years have been targetted in those ridings to ensure a continued cycle of election victories.

However, this isn’t a partisan issue. All political parties vying for government always make campaign promises and investments in those areas of the province.

For example, in 2006, Metrolinx was created as an agency of the Government of Ontario, to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transportation in the GTHA. The agency is responsible for GO Transit, Union Pearson Express, Eglinton Crosstown, PRESTO and other initiatives. There are already $16 billion worth of transit expansion and improvement projects underway in the GTHA. These investments include the Union Pearson Express, Mississauga Transitway, Expanding BRT throughout York Region, construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the Finch West and Sheppard East LRT, expansion of PRESTO, renewal of Toronto’s streetcar fleet, Toronto’s extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway, highway expansions all across the GTHA, and more rapid transit projects in Brampton, Hamilton and Mississauga.

It’s clear that the city of London has been neglected by upper levels of government. In fact we’re struggling to even fund our two-corridor Bus Rapid Transit project. Meanwhile, the GTHA gets billions of dollars in support from the province.
For over two decades, both the provincial and federal governments have been downloading services and costs onto municipalities such as London.

Downloading can be defined as a range of ways that the provincial and federal governments pass administrative costs, capital costs, service provision and other expenses and responsibilities to municipalities without adequate funding or revenue streams. This is choking our city coffers.

For the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, downloading may not be such a big problem as the area receives a significant amount of provincial and federal tax dollars in funding to assist with growing gaps.

However, for a mid-sized city such as London, we are left with significant financial shortfalls. So when the city increases property taxes, blame upper levels of government.

Some have argued for southwestern Ontario to become its own province so that our taxes are not simply used to invest in the GTHA. Others have suggested that we need to do a better job of lobbying upper levels of government and branding our city.

I say regardless, this is a major problem and we need a proactive solution that gives us the right outcomes.

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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