CBRM’s Infrastructure Deficit

CBRM’s services and infrastructure are chronically underfunded — even as we’ve accumulated a $100+ million debt over the last decade. This “infrastructure deficit” impacts our competitiveness, making it harder for CBRM to attract investment, new residents, and tourists.

But we are not unique in our predicament.1 Municipalities across Canada face similar obstacles to delivering services efficiently and affordably. Calgary and Toronto have infrastructure deficits of roughly $2.5 billion each, Montreal $1.5 billion, to name just a few.

Like all municipalities in Canada, CBRM’s primary source of revenue comes from property taxes — an outdated and unsustainable funding formula that is increasingly leaving municipalities underserved. CBRM should partner with other municipalities — especially, but not exclusively, in Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia — to find ways to diversify its fiscal base. This might include collectively negotiating increased tax sharing and grants from the provincial and federal governments.

To ensure that taxes raised by the municipality are put back into the local economy, the CBRM could consider adopting the Canadian Labour Congress’s “Made in Canada” procurement policy.

The municipality should also encourage economic diversity — by promoting our rich history of cooperatives, credit unions, and various forms of social enterprise that benefit business owners, workers, and the community — in order to foster resilience within the local economy.

1 “Infrastructure Issues Threaten Canadian Prosperity” [pdf]

Message to CBRM

Everyone who brought a reusable mug to the vigil on Saturday had their name entered in a draw for Al Gore’s new book, Our Choice. The winner asked that the prize be donated to a good cause. On behalf of the vigil organizers and everyone who attended, the book has been sent to CBRM council with the following message:

A report released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that ”municipalities have the potential to supply between 20 and 55 Megatonnes of emission reductions, equivalent to 15 to 40 per cent of Canada’s 2020 emission reduction target [of 20% below 2006 levels].”

The report calls for “a strategic approach, led and in part funded by the Government of Canada.”The benefit to the federal government is that local, community-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives – such as improving public transit, shifting to more fuel-efficient fleets, retrofitting public buildings and turning landfill gas into energy – are an especially cost-effective way to cut emissions.

The benefit to municipalities is job creation, community economic development and increased competitiveness; and energy efficiency measures can lead to lower overall municipal operating costs.

Municipalities are key to achieving large and low-cost emission reductions, in partnership with federal and provincial/territorial. Not only do Municipal governments have direct or indirect control over approximately 44 per cent of GHG emissions in Canada, but “Municipal governments are also the order of government that is the closest to citizens and can most easily engage households and businesses to implement local projects to reduce GHG emissions. Municipal governments can affect GHG emissions as a regulator, facilitator, partner, program deliverer and educator.”

Full report: Act Locally – The Municipal Role in Fighting Climate Change [pdf]