If you’ve been following the volley of ads leading up to next week’s federal election, the topic of our economy has been front and centre. When Canada’s Big City Mayors get together, it’s the topic of our conversation too – mainly because strong cities are the backbone of a strong economy.
Here’s why: imagine a discussion of the economy that does not touch on where you live, where you work, where you create, where you shop, where you invest in a home, in an education, where your kids grow up. These are economic issues, and they’re the issues 4 out of 5 of us face daily as city dwellers.
With just 8¢ of your overall tax dollar coming to cities, it’s hard to tackle these sorts of issues effectively. That’s why we – as a collective of 21 mayors – have been pushing so hard to make cities matter in this election.
There are three important pillars to an urban economy:
- Transit: which is about how efficiently you’re able to get to and from work
- Infrastructure: which supports your ability to do work and the resiliency of your community
- Housing: which is about being able to work and afford where you live
All the federal parties seem to have recognized the importance of both transit and infrastructure, and their platforms represent historic progress forward. We’re now seeing a race to the top; a ‘jockeying for position’ that benefits everyone living in a major city like Edmonton. In addition, we are getting clear signals from the major parties that they will top up federal commitments to our Valley Line funding to match the ⅓ commitment made to other cities like Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto. For Edmonton taxpayers, this amounts to $133 million – no small amount of money.
The same consensus has not been reached among parties on affordable housing, however.
Promises so far range from very detailed, to very encouraging, to rather vague and uncertain. Every party needs to recognize that affordable housing is critical to the health, well-being, and economic prosperity of our communities. It starts with protecting Canada’s existing and longstanding $2.12 billion annual federal affordable housing programs and agreements that directly impact almost 12,000 social housing units in Edmonton alone – to the tune of $22 million in annual Federal support for affordable housing.
Providing affordable housing now to those who need it is an investment that costs taxpayers far less than managing people on the street. In fact, research has shown that every $10 spent on housing and supports for chronically homeless individuals results in $21.72 in savings related to health care, social supports, housing, and involvement in the justice system.
Even families are finding themselves in a housing Catch 22: if they move out to where they can afford housing, they face congestion and long commute times; if they try to avoid being stuck in traffic by moving closer to their work, they’re less able to afford a place to live.
The federal government has the most important role to play in unlocking a national solution to this stalemate. That’s why I’m asking you to vote for cities in this federal election. You can find out where each party stands on the core issues of transit, infrastructure and housing – and which candidates have made a commitment to municipalities – at citiescan.ca.
The issues facing Edmonton are Canadian issues, which makes your vote all the more important.