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John Godfrey speech, January 22, 2004
January, 2004 -
Speech by John Godfrey, MP, Don Valley West,
Parliamentary Secrertary to the Prime Minister with special emphasis on cities
January 22, 2004,
To Big City Mayors Meeting in Toronto
A New Deal for Canada’s Cities
Seventy-one years ago, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his second-ever fireside chat, in which he outlined his New Deal programs. In FDR’s own words, the purpose of his fireside chats was to “…give you my report…to tell you about what we have been doing and what we are planning to do.”
In that same spirit, I come before you today to give my own report on our government’s actions to date, and our future plans for the New Deal for Canadian municipalities.
My friends Charles Baillie, Derek Burleton and Gordon Nixon will be relieved to learn that, unlike FDR, Prime Minister Martin will not be closing down the banks. On the other hand, Ken Georgetti, John Cartwright and Paul Moist will be disappointed to hear that this New Deal is not likely to lead to the greatest gains in organized labour’s history, as it did in the US in the 1930s.
The similarities between the New Deals is this: both were conceived by leaders faced with historic opportunity, who dedicated themselves to charting an ambitious course, and committed to mobilizing the national will towards great public purposes to provide a new prosperity, security, and opportunity for all.
As I’m sure all of you realise, a Throne Speech is very much a work in progress until the Governor General enters the Chamber to deliver it.
Each Cabinet member has his or her own priorities that they would like to see reflected in the Speech, and the Prime Minister obviously has his own very clear thoughts on the direction he wants his government to take.
I can assure you that cities will rank high on this government’s agenda.
We need only to look at what the Prime Minster said in Edmonton last Saturday. He said that “the cities agenda, the municipal agenda – both large and small – is at the heart of the federal government’s priorities”. And he didn’t stop there -- he acknowledged that municipalities need long-term sustainable and predictable funding. He also said that you must be heard when national objectives - and the means to achieve them - are being set. Because you create Canada’s prosperity and deliver our social programmes. You are where the national interest is made real for our citizens.
Elements Of A New Deal
The New Deal for Cities is about improving the quality of life for our citizens … making communities where all residents can contribute, can achieve their potential and can prosper.
In my time with you today, I want to focus on the three key components of the new deal for cities.
One… stable, predictable, long-term funding.
Two…building sustainable relationships.
And three… looking at federal activity through an urban lens.
Let’s begin with the funding issue.
During the Depression, the refrain from a popular song went “Brother, can you spare a dime?” Today, our mayors are a little more direct and demanding: a dime’s not going to do it. Their favourite pop culture refrain is “Show me the money.”
We all agree that municipalities need stable, predictable, long-term funding.
Sharing the gas tax is the option that is currently being studied most seriously by the federal government.
As I’m sure you’re aware, divvying up the gas tax is not a straightforward matter. It represents a complex cash transfer that requires the support of the provinces. I know, for example, that in the case of Calgary and Edmonton, it took time to negotiate a deal with a willing provincial partner.
So we recognize that we could not negotiate a complex agreement with the provinces for this year’s budget.
And it’s possible that there may be better or more effective ways to achieve the same result.
But I can assure you that we are committed to the goal: long-term, stable and predictable funding for the future.
There are two key criteria for a new deal on funding: the options we consider must be affordable, and the provinces must support them. A balanced budget is job one. That’s what Canadians want, that is the foundation of our economic success and that’s what we are going to deliver. On the second point, whatever deal is struck, it must be supported by the provinces so that they too continue their support to municipalities.
The goal is to ensure that cities are further ahead, and not maintaining a status quo that we all agree is unsustainable.
We are absolutely committed to a New Deal, and any new funding would have to be allocated in a way that demonstrates accountable and responsible use of public funds. It will be connected to achieving results in four priorities of national consequence… namely: economic; environmental; social; and cultural sustainability.
These conditions will ensure long-term improvements in areas that include urban transit, affordable housing, and clean water.
We know that our communities don’t necessarily share the same issues… or share them in equal degrees. While cities in western Canada, like Winnipeg and Saskatoon, face the issue of integrating their growing Aboriginal population, in Toronto and Vancouver, the issue is how to make sure that an increasingly diverse urban population, fuelled by waves of immigration from all over the world, can fully contribute to the social, economic and cultural life of their community. In Montreal, one of Canada’s oldest cities, one of the issues is its aging infrastructure. Meanwhile, in the cities of the Atlantic provinces, the challenge is different again: retention of young, qualified workers who are forced to leave their cities to seek employment opportunities elsewhere in Canada.
So we will also ensure that whatever funding arrangements we adopt, they will provide the flexibility municipalities need to address their own specific challenges.
You need – right now - a real down payment on the New Deal. I can assure you that we are committed to early action, and my job is to make sure that the message is clear and unambiguous in the Speech From the Throne and the Budget.
In a major speech last May outlining the New Deal, our current Prime Minister said, “The first step, is that cities need an open door in Ottawa. If city hall is responsible for paving the last mile of the national vision, then city hall needs a real seat at the table of national change.”
With the establishment of a Cities Secretariat in the Privy Council Office, which is doing great work and is led by Yazmine Laroche, who is here tonight; the creation of my position as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for cities; and the appointment of Mike Harcourt as chair of an Advisory Committee on Cities, the door is open. Today, I ask you, and your fellow mayors across the country, to join us in a process of national change.
Last Saturday, the Prime Minister, Mr. Harcourt and I sat down with the Mayors of Calgary and Edmonton, and other partners, to hear about their concerns. I have met with many of the mayors here in this room and, in the coming weeks and months and on an ongoing basis, I will continue to meet with you and your colleagues across the country.
My discussions with you will, in fact, build on the fine work that my colleague Judy Sgro and her fellow members of the Prime Minister’s caucus task force on urban issues undertook a year and a half ago.
I am also pleased to announce that Finance Minister Ralph Goodale has confirmed to me, and to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, that he will meet with the FCM Big City Mayors’ Caucus before he constructs his budget. This follows through on the commitment that the Prime Minister made to you last May.
We have heard your plea for a new and more direct relationship with the federal government.
We know that you need a voice in Ottawa where decisions that affect you are made. You need an open door.
That’s what my job is all about.
We need to find new ways of doing things and new ways of making decisions.
Forming new relationships will be how we do it. Through these new relationships — involving all three orders of government, the private and not-for-profit sector — we will be able to have meaningful discussions that lead to solutions … and long-term, effective, lasting partnerships that permit us to meet our goals – both in the short and longer terms.
I believe that, over the long haul, building these relationships in the New Deal is an even more important element than funding. Our relationships must be open and transparent.
And they must respect provincial jurisdiction.
From the federal government’s perspective, we must find the best way to complement the municipal and provincial efforts to guide the future evolution of urban communities from a national perspective.
We don’t see it as our place to unilaterally take the lead role, or to dominate the agenda.
Our role is perhaps best described as that of an “enabler”. The federal government must facilitate the development of new partnerships and new ways of determining what makes sense for specific cities.
We’re already doing this, and it’s incredibly powerful. Let me give you a couple of examples. As part of my visit out west last week, I learned about the “Vancouver Agreement”. Signed in March 2000, it’s a 5-year agreement between the federal government, the provincial government and the City of Vancouver to coordinate their work. It brings an integrated approach to areas such as: health, justice and policing, social and economic development, housing and community capacity building.
What really struck me about this agreement is that it has allowed relationships to flourish beyond their initial purpose. This well positions the community to tackle a broad set of new challenges and opportunities. What had started as an effort to improve the quality of life in the downtown eastside, was transformed to support Vancouver’s bid for the Olympic games. The relationships of trust that were built are lasting... and that’s the goal. How do we create something that goes beyond political lifecycles?
Let me share another example with you. This one comes from Winnipeg. As you probably know, most provinces have signed federal-provincial agreements on immigration. Cities are not signatories. But recognizing that increased immigration is key to future growth and prosperity, the City of Winnipeg entered into a memorandum of understanding with the federal and provincial governments on a private refugee sponsorship program, marking the first time a city was recognized as a partner in immigration and population growth.
What do these approaches have in common? They start at the community level, and build effective partnerships that make a difference.
As I look out in the audience, I see Jane Jacobs, the guru of cities, who has lived here in Toronto since 1968. I am reminded of one of her best lessons in what does NOT work.
She makes the case, based on years of study, that city planning cannot be successfully enforced from outside.
She says the worst thing that government can do is to treat a city like an occupied nation that needs order imposed on it.
I think Jane Jacobs would look favourably on these examples of Winnipeg and Vancouver, which showcase effective solutions developed at the community level. There are undoubtedly lots more examples of unique and innovative partnerships out there. We need to ferret them out, acknowledge them as best practices and replicate them wherever it makes sense.
The New Deal is about working cooperatively and collaboratively. We are committed to long-term work to help guide the development path of urban communities with a focus on the issues of national consequence. Cities are on the front lines delivering social programs — whether these programs deal with immigrant settlement or environmental remediation.
Your input and action is vital. So, too, is the valuable contribution of community leaders such as David Pecaut, chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, and Elyse Allan, CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade. I hear you!
One thing that has struck me in my travels is the way public and private institutions are reconsidering their role as members of their communities. There is a recognition that we all have a responsibility to build the life of our cities. We, as a federal government, need to do the same.
We are the nation’s largest single landlord, we contribute significantly to the local tax base, and we have a direct interest in issues such as urban infrastructure. In some communities, we are also the largest employer… with all that entails. We also maintain a key presence in local communities through a wide range of investments… including housing, scientific research, social programs, cultural programming and sports.
Sometimes it comes down to very rapid solutions to very urgent problems. Last week, as temperatures were plunging in Eastern Canada, the Defence Minister, David Pratt, phoned Mayor Miller in Toronto, and opened up the armory to the homeless.
So, in light of the multi-faceted roles we play, the federal government has to examine its own contribution as a corporate citizen of your cities… and ask ourselves how we can best contribute to the quality of life in your community which is directly linked to the third element of the New Deal.
I call this viewing federal activity through an urban lens.
We need to start by taking stock of what is already being done in cities… evaluating outcomes and effects to make sure that our programs, and yours, and those of our provincial colleagues, are making a real contribution. And making sure that our programs work together, not in conflict, to improving our communities.
We need to recognize that communities are unique… and often their challenges don’t easily fit into the criteria for federal funding programs.
If we’re to get this right, we need to revamp existing, or design new, funding programs with urban needs in mind.
Finally, we need to look at timeframes. Federal involvement tends to be finite and short-term, whereas the needs of municipalities are long term, predictable and stable.
In the end, a New Deal for Canada’s cities and municipalities will have three elements: the money, new relationships, and the urban lens. And of those three, relationships formed at events like these may ultimately be the most important.
Hon. John Godfrey MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with special emphasis on cities
January 22, 2004