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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Martin Makes a Promise
02/02/2004

Today's throne speech promised a "new deal with cities" from the federal government:

Our communities, our towns, our cities are key to our social goals and our economic competitiveness. Large and small, rural and urban, Canada's communities are facing new challenges, often without sufficient resources or the tools they need.

Canada depends on communities that can attract the best talent and compete for investment as vibrant centres of commerce, learning, and culture. We want communities that provide affordable housing, good transit, quality health care, excellent schools, safe neighbourhoods, and abundant green spaces.

To this end, the Government of Canada is committed to a new deal for Canada's municipalities.

A new deal that targets the infrastructure needed to support quality of life and sustainable growth.

A new deal that helps our communities become more dynamic, more culturally rich, more cohesive, and partners in strengthening Canada's social foundations.

A new deal that delivers reliable, predictable and long-term funding.

Therefore, the Government will work with provinces to share with municipalities a portion of gas tax revenues or to determine other fiscal mechanisms which achieve the same goals.

This will take time and the agreement of other governments. But the Government of Canada is prepared now, as a down payment, to act in its own jurisdiction by providing all municipalities with full relief from the portion of the Goods and Services Tax they now pay.

Over the next decade, this will provide Canada's municipalities with approximately $7 billion of stable new funding to help meet critical priorities.

The Government will also move to quickly commit funds within our existing infrastructure programs, so that our partners can plan properly.

Together, these are real and ongoing investments in urban transit, affordable housing, clean water, and good roads. Canada's municipalities asked for this. The Government has acted.

Canada's municipalities can play a crucial role in helping the Government meet its national priorities - for the integration of immigrants, for opportunities for Aboriginal Canadians living in urban centres, for tackling homelessness, and for emergency preparedness and response. The new deal means that city hall has a real seat at the table of national change.

This is all talk, but at least Paul Martin (through the Governor General) is saying the right things.

In terms of concrete promises, the elimination of GST on municipalities will save Toronto about $50 million per year. This will certainly help close the $344 million gap that the city budget faces between current revenues and the survival spending level.


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