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Update on Paul Martin's New Deal
30/03/2005

A brief newsletter from the Prime Minister was delivered to my house in the past day or two. It is about the "New Deal for Cities and Communities" and the gas tax transfer.

Despite having a picture of the Toronto skyline, everything in the document is designed to stress that the benefit is not really for the big cities that asked for this deal. The funding arrangement is per capita, with special bonuses mentioned for PEI, the territories, northern and remote areas, and First Nations communities.

Oh well. The good thing about the gas tax transfer is that it ensures a reliable source for municipal funding, beyond property taxes and independent of provincial caprice. It is also a source of municipal funding that will grow with the economy... at least for the short-term, but not nearly as much as income or sales taxes. This helps all municipalities -- larger ones a little less than some others -- but it is still an improvement for which Martin should receive some credit.

Thinking of Paul Martin and the Toronto file, however, reminds me of something else. It is hard to keep track of the number of times that Paul Martin and his crew have promised to stop the bridge to the Toronto island airport. The municipal election of 2003 was fought over this and it would now seem to be ancient history, but Martin still hasn't killed the plan as he said he would in a desperate pre-election re-promise. The Commuity Air website is counting the days since Martin first made his still-unfulfilled commitment.

(I don't think "re-promise" is a word, but it ought to be with the federal Liberal Party. We can count on everything to be repromised many times, whether or not it ever actually happens.)

UPDATE: On second thought, a gas tax transfer of this sort (fixed cents per litre) doesn't really grow with the economy. Hopefully in ten years we will be seeing a decrease in litres-per-capita consumption. Additionally, this transfer will be eroded by inflation.

Also, I thought I should clarify that I'm not entirely convinced that the federal government owes any sort of special treatment to urban municipalities. However, their involvement on the municipal file does help to counterbalance some provincial mismanagement.


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