Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and fellow Maritimer.
It's nice to be here. I want to thank sincerely the committee for the invitation to discuss the vital role that municipalities play in the growth of Canada's economy.
As you may know, and it's probably been mentioned on several occasions to you in the past, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, or FCM, has 2,000 members, representing 90% of Canada's population in every province and region of the country. They form the order of government closest to the people. On behalf of our membership, I am pleased to share with you today our vision, Mr. Chair, for a municipal sector with more tools than ever to help grow the Canadian economy.
Cities and communities are Canada’s hubs of growth and innovation, managing two-thirds of the public infrastructure that supports our economy. By working together, our orders of government have laid down important markers over the past few years, and for that we are very grateful. The federal government is delivering robust investments in infrastructure and affordable housing, and we look forward to seeing continued support for these critical projects as we move forward.
Municipalities are using these new tools to deliver local solutions with national impact on growth, productivity and improving climate resilience. That progress simply needs to continue in budget 2019.
In 2018, and indeed for many years now, new expectations and responsibilities have been brought to our municipalities across the country. We play a leading role on issues ranging from tackling gun crime and regulating the newly legalized cannabis next month to addressing the opioid crisis and helping new Canadians thrive in their new communities.
Yet, Mr. Chair, the outdated fiscal and legislative framework in which municipalities operate has not changed since it was created.
Municipalities continue to make the most of the tools available to respond every day to national challenges. We are forced, however, to rely on a property tax never designed to support this modern reality. With access to just 10 cents of every Canadian tax dollar, local governments must prioritize efficiently—and we do. Yet, modern realities mean that municipalities will continue to rely deeply on variable investment programs from other orders of government.
Nevertheless, Mr. Chair and esteemed members of this committee, we as the municipal sector are extremely optimistic for our future. We firmly believe that budget 2019 can be the launch pad for a generational shift, a shift toward a federal-municipal government having a fully engaged partnership, a true partnership, a shift that helps the Government of Canada achieve its central objectives of boosting economic growth and productivity, fostering innovation and creating more sustainable environments for its citizens.
What is needed now, from the position of the FCM, is a clear federal commitment in budget 2019 to engage FCM and the local orders of government in a new modern and mature conversation on updating the fiscal framework to reflect the critical roles that municipalities play in solving 21st century challenges.
This conversation is long overdue but absolutely necessary to ensure that local governments have the kind of long-term, sustainable, predictable fiscal tools already available to other orders of the government. As government leaders on the front lines across Canada, we can say with confidence that partnering with municipalities ensures the most efficient and accountable response to local priorities. We have proven that to various governments over the years.
We can make our economic partnership official through regular meetings with all orders of government to discuss our shared priorities for economic growth.
Interestingly enough, today in Halifax, for the third consecutive year, FCM's president is leading a team of municipal leaders, including Mayor Mike Savage, at the annual meeting of federal, provincial and territorial infrastructure ministers. They provide the critical local perspective, without which, as we have seen in the past, some national projects falter.
Whether through formalized FPT-plus municipal format or a new forum featuring orders of government as full partners, municipal governments are ready to bring to the table our knowledge and experience of delivering to Canadian people to ensure that Canada's economy grows from the ground up.
Successive federal governments have established a foundation for this conversation over the years with many initiatives of which you are well aware—for example, through the permanent and indexed federal gas tax fund and the 100% GST rebate for municipalities. Budget 2019 is an opportunity to grow and build on these highly effective programs.
The right solution could bring us closer to addressing the outdated fiscal framework, such as expanding on a predictable source of funding—predictable, dependable and sustainable like the gas tax fund—for local infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
Of course, core infrastructure, which we talk about a lot, is only part of the equation. We, collectively, just worked together on a transformational allocation-based funding plan that we recognize as a step in the right direction for the next decade of public transit expansions nationwide. Now is the time to build on that with a permanent funding mechanism for public transit.
Canada's economic future depends on vibrant cities with world-class mass transit that moves families and workers from home to school, to their office and back home again. The federal government has recognized and knows that it has a critical role to play in getting this right. With a permanent funding mechanism, cities will be able to plan over 20 and 30 years, driving major improvements in local congestion and national productivity.
I will just interject that FCM has done some amazing work with Abacus Data on what Canada will look like in 2040, and that is the type of funding that's required to make that vision a reality.
Of course, as we know, much too often climate adaptation and disaster mitigation are another priority for both orders of government. We've seen recently, again, extreme weather events costing money, closing businesses and putting families out of their homes. Our communities and this country need to be prepared when confronted with extreme weather. Getting ready could mean a targeted program such as the existing disaster mitigation and adaptation fund delivered by Infrastructure Canada, but this type of challenge will best be addressed for the future by reforming the underlying fiscal framework.
It is time also for much bolder federal leadership to achieve universal, reliable broadband Internet access in this country. I just talked to our colleague from the northwest. Communities from across Canada, small, remote and rural, call FCM all the time to talk to us about the need to have this major priority addressed. It should be a national imperative.
Without reliable connectivity, small businesses cannot grow, cannot link to the supply chain and cannot open new markets to new customers. Without connectivity from coast to coast, Canada will struggle to attract employers to regions where they are most needed. With strong federal leadership in budget 2019, we believe an investment of at least $400 million per year over 10 years in broadband and mobile connectivity can spark the transformational shift that Canadians and businesses need to thrive in a globally competitive economy.
Mr. Chair, we at FCM and our more than 2,000 members across the country, as I have stated, are extremely optimistic for our future.
In closing, as we also know, there is in fact an important debate happening across Canada about the role and autonomy of municipalities. The conversation about that is long overdue. This is the time to discuss a new federal-municipal partnership to achieve those objectives that we share and, together, to build tomorrow's Canada.
On behalf of our president, Vicki-May Hamm, who couldn't be here today, our board of directors and all of our members, again I say thank you for having us here today to share our vision.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.