The mayors complain they don’t have the money necessary to build the infrastructure Canadians need. They say “city governments have been required to rely on property taxes alone to support our growing operating budgets, with dollars stretched thinner and thinner as we serve the growing needs of the public.” Apparently, property taxes are not enough.
I find it frustrating that the substantial property taxes I pay don’t seem to be enough. Over the past decade or two, city governments have added user fees to everything they can. So, I pay these fees in addition to my property taxes. The prospect of greatly “increased revenue powers” for the city isn’t a happy one for me. I believe it’s important to fix and grow infrastructure, but why can’t some of my property taxes fund these projects?
Here is a quote that definitely did not come from any of the 5 mayors:
“The problem is that so much of property taxes gets soaked up by huge city administrative work forces. It’s not that these people are lazy. Most of them work diligently at their jobs. There are just so many of them and their job functions often contribute little to serving city residents. We have a management culture of empire-building. When we try to do something about these problems, the effort is half-hearted and the unions don’t help. With so much of property taxes diverted into salaries, there just isn’t much left for infrastructure projects. If we can get these toll collections going, it will greatly reduce the financial pressure. We’ll be able fund a few projects and take some pressure off as city administrations inevitably keep growing.”
An open letter from Canadian Mayors calling for increased revenue powers
"You rarely have to ask permission to do the right thing.
But this is the position our cities find themselves in as we attempt to do right by our growing populations.
There is no doubt that Canadian cities are where economic and social policy hits the pavement.
We are the financial engines of the country. We are where young people are looking for jobs and families are raising their children.
Cities are where our kids go to universities and where researchers are battling the diseases our loved ones suffer.
The innovations and technologies developed in our cities are providing new tools to help Canadians live and compete in the modern economy, improving our approach to everything from agriculture to construction to financial services.
When cities do well, our entire country benefits.
But still, we find ourselves begging for control over our own finances.
For too long, city governments have been required to rely on property taxes alone to support our growing operating budgets, with dollars stretched thinner and thinner as we serve the growing needs of the public.
At the same time, our transit systems, roads and vital infrastructure are suffering from decades of underinvestment.
It's time for that to change.
Across the country, mayors stand ready to lead a new approach - championing reasonable measures to increase municipal revenues so we can make a positive difference in our residents' lives.
Great responsibilities require great powers, and Canadian cities are at the forefront of a growing housing crisis, overwhelmed transit systems, alarming fentanyl abuse, mental health issues and the growing divide between haves and have nots.
As the federal government introduces stimulus funding for transit and infrastructure, cities are also required to match these funds.
This is a good deal - a real partnership that can put cities on a strong footing. But we must still ask permission from provincial leaders to introduce new revenue measures to generate these dollars, requests that are always weighted against the particular political realities of a given moment in time.
As mayors of Canada's biggest cities we are ready to champion real solutions. In Toronto, road tolls would finance a long-overdue transit expansion and ease congestion that is choking the most populated region in the country.
In Metro Vancouver, a lack of new funding tools has put a strain on property taxes and delayed crucial transit investments for years - while residents deal with crammed buses and gridlocked commutes.
In, Edmonton and Calgary, a new fiscal framework would enable more predictable, stable funding to manage growth.
And in Ottawa, we have just completed a feasibility study that outlines the possible construction of a subterranean truck tunnel to eliminate dangerous and disruptive heavy truck traffic in Ottawa's downtown core.
These large infrastructure projects come at a great cost, and it is imperative that we collaborate with the provincial and federal governments to move forward with a solution that works for all.
Canadian cities should be able to control their own destiny: mayors and councilors are elected to serve their residents and create a bright future for our cities but the fiscal power to do so sits with other levels of government.
As a result, we're forced to do our job with one hand tied behind our backs.
Our request is simple: give us the tools to do the job and the accountability that goes with them and we'll build great cities for the benefit of all Canadians."
Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of the City of Calgary
Don Iveson, Mayor of the City of Edmonton
Jim Watson, Mayor of the City of Ottawa
John Tory, Mayor of the City of Toronto
Gregor Robertson, Mayor of the City of Vancouver