So I just finished reading a news release from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and need to vent. Look at sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act 1867 to see what is the Federal and provincial areas of responsibility. Where does it say the Federal and Provincial governments are the local government’s sugar daddy? So local politicians look good, especially in election years, they have upper levels of government fork over our money so we don’t have a tax or user fee increase locally. Our money, just a different route away from us.
So ten billion dollars is lost every year to transportation gridlock and lack of housing. Local politicians can complain all they want about other levels of government not investing enough, the fact is the problems start with local politicians. Local governments throughout Canada are caught in the traps of expensive low capacity transit and expensive low density housing. We’ve so idolized the car, bungalow and suburbia over the last seventy years it was bound to catch up with us. Adding more funding from upper levels of government ultimately delays the reckoning that must occur eventually. Imagine how better things would be if local governments didn’t favour this kind of development (see last post for my idea).
If municipalities truly want to fix gridlock and housing they should throw away the begging bowls and start up the bulldozers. New York City used to have a massive highway running around Manhattan, since knocking it down the area has flourished. Many costly infrastructure projects throughout Canada are draining budgets and not giving a real benefit. So either bulldoze them or set up toll booths to recover the capital and maintenance costs. While that is happening stop accepting the developers ‘gift’ of new budget busting infrastructure and low density housing.
Yes, some infrastructure should be paid for by higher levels of government, but only if it crosses from one lower jurisdiction to another. Again the focus should be higher density and higher return on investment over the primitive auto culture. Higher capacity projects will reduce the current problem of getting Canadian grain to market because our rail networks are so old and inefficient. Expanding our ports, airports and the St Lawrence SeaWay will go a lot further in helping the Canadian economy then giving city hall a few million for potholes.
We are in a global market that is hampered by global conflicts and tensions, which reduce the economic potential of Canada. How about investing Federal money in diplomacy, promoting Canada, Peace Keeping and defence not more lanes on highways. When the CF-188 Hornet leaves service Canada will only have a few antiaircraft guns to protect Canadian airspace and our NORAD partners are in a similar situation. Canada has gone from the Aerodrome of Democracy to where we will need to beg European allies for air defences. Protecting Canadians is the national governments primary responsibility, yet we can’t even find missing hunters in the Arctic without calling the neighbours. Sorry tourists, the search and rescue helicopter was replaced with a bridge in Southern Ontario.
The above video mentions education is superior in creating jobs than transportation or defence contracts. Defence contracts should never be about jobs only defence. Why would we divert money from educating our future entrepreneurs, skilled workers and professionals to keep local property taxes low? Already Canada has high student debts that are getting higher, which is a red flag for security in government and companies with sensitive proprietary information or patents, thus making Canada unattractive to invest in. Alleviating this debt and investing in more varied and relevant education would be worth a few hundred kilometres of road.
The solutions to our gridlock and housing problems are locally created and locally fixable. We just need a better group of politicians and the will to make tough decisions as a society. Canadian municipalities haven’t evolved since the Forties, they and their populations just get wider and less efficient. Now is the time to abandon the mistakes of the past, it will be painful but in the good detoxing way. With the money we save maybe we could finally settle our debts with Canada’s First Nations.