July 16, 2010
OTTAWA (CNB) - Provincial and territorial ministers responsible for local government have acknowledged the importance of strong and viable communities and municipalities to economic growth. They took this position following their annual meeting, held in Ottawa.
It was also announced that Local Government Minister Chris Collins will assume the chair of the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for local government in 2010-11. In this capacity, he will chair the 2011 annual meeting, to be held in New Brunswick next July.
"We had good discussions around the table, and we all came to the same conclusion," said Collins. "Municipalities and rural communities are key drivers of our economy, and it is important for the provinces and territories to ensure that they have the tools and the strategies they need to contribute to our economy."
The ministers discussed many topics, including municipal dialogue, municipal infrastructure funding, strengthening the municipal sector, municipal Aboriginal engagement and climate change.
They unanimously agreed that the federal government must bring a long-term national municipal infrastructure funding arrangement to the table.
"The Government of New Brunswick recognizes the need for more-long term predictable funding for municipal infrastructure," said Collins. "Our infrastructure is deteriorating faster than it can be fixed, and additional funds are required. While the gas tax fund will ensure some long-term funding for municipalities, it will not be sufficient to meet all the funding needs to address the municipal infrastructure deficit."
The three municipal associations of New Brunswick recently met with Collins, expressing their concern for long-term municipal infrastructure funding. As a follow-up, Collins asked John Baird, minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Canada, if the federal government was prepared to discuss long-term funding other than the gas tax fund for municipal infrastructure funding. Collins said he was reassured by Baird's openness to ongoing discussions.
Collins said that the time to act is now: "If we collectively spend the necessary monies to address the capital costs of our aging municipal infrastructures, municipalities will be able to use resulting savings to address the other demands."
The ministers agreed to continue to collaborate with municipal partners and associations, and they recognized the important role that municipalities play in solving challenges.
"I am pleased that the ministers agreed to the importance of constructive and co-operative provincial, territorial and municipal relationships and once again emphasized the desire to enhance the relationship with provincial and territorial municipal associations," said Collins. "These partnerships and collaborative efforts will contribute to the development of new and innovative initiatives and approaches to sustainable communities and municipalities."
The ministers agreed to work with, and strengthen relationships with, municipalities and Aboriginal communities.
They recognized the importance of working with municipalities in provincial and territorial climate change initiatives; they recognized, furthermore, that the municipal sector has an important role to play. To this end, they supported sharing information among provinces and territories on leading policies and programs that address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
"Climate change is already having an impact on our communities and municipalities from coast to coast," said Collins. "We strongly believe that municipal governments will continue to support the provinces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement real solutions."
MEDIA CONTACT: Mark Barbour, communications, Department of Local Government, 506-444-4693.