Posted Tuesday June 23, 2020

Restart Funds

Kitchener joins call with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in pressing for bottom-line requirements for safe-restart funds

As federal, provincial and territorial governments negotiate “safe economic restart” funding agreements, the City of Kitchener is supporting the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) call for four bottom-line requirements to ensure funds urgently protect frontline services for Canadians and support a nationwide economic recovery.

"Municipalities provide services residents depend on, like clean water, public health, and roads and trails. But these services are at risk with cities and communities in financial crisis,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “We welcome the Prime Minister’s safe restart commitment, but COVID-19 has left a big deficit in our budget, and municipalities or all sizes need federal and provincial funding support to continue providing essential services.”

With revenues collapsing and additional costs related to COVID-19, cities and towns across Canada now face $10-15 billion in non-recoverable losses. To protect Canadians from damaging cuts or significant property tax increases, municipalities have appealed for emergency operating funding, which will require contributions from federal and provincial governments. A federal restart plan can lead to a solution—protecting the frontline services and recovery Canadians need—but only if it meets four key requirements:

• Municipal funding must be sufficient. Nationwide, municipalities require at least $10 billion in emergency operating funding. Federal and provincial/territorial governments will need to work together urgently to achieve this overall.

• Funding must be clearly identified. Starting with the broader $14 billion safe-restart commitment to provinces and territories, the allocation of federal funds intended for municipal needs must be clearly specified—so local leaders can make informed choices on the ground.

• Funding must protect services Canadians rely on. That includes frontline municipal services like fire, ambulance, public transit, clean water and shelters. Funding must address both initial COVID lockdown costs and the implications of a gradual restart.

• Funding must reach municipalities quickly and directly. Only an allocation-based funding mechanism can ensure this, and we strongly urge leveraging proven tools like the Gas Tax Fund and the public transit stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (directed to operating costs).

"Residents and businesses are still struggling, and significantly cutting services or increasing property taxes is exactly what we don’t want to do now or during an economic recovery,” said Vrbanovic. “Strong municipalities will be key to any economic recovery. We need to work together to invest in Canadians by supporting municipalities, so we can come out of this pandemic even stronger.”

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