Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The municipal imbalance

Urban Affairs Columnist Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star wrote an interesting story last week about the infrastructural plight of ever-growing cities in an increasibly urbanizing world. While Hume focuses on the larger cities of the developing world, he makes sure to note that Canadian cities are suffering, too:

Yet around the globe the story is the same: Cities deliver 80 per cent of the services people expect in their daily lives on 25 per cent of tax revenues. As a result, public infrastructure is crumbling at every turn.

Canada's no exception; the latest estimate of the infrastructure deficit in Ontario alone stands at $143 billion. While Toronto frantically tries to avoid bankruptcy, Ottawa has just come through a series of budget surpluses that peaked last year at $13 billion. This national/local imbalance reveals much about where the planet is headed in the decades ahead.

With such expectations on the clear majority of service provision with a tremendously unbalanced taxation ability, is it any wonder that cities--Ottawa included--are falling behind in maintaining transit infrastructure? And is it responsible for federal governments to continually hoard billions in surpluses while cities struggle to minimize deficits, at the expense of municipal services? Probably not, but there is little sign of change.

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