Empowering local leaders essential

In addition to my work as a city councillor for Prince George, I'm proud to serve as the first vice-president for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the organization that unites more than 2,000 municipalities across the country to advocate for the issues that matter most to Canadians in their communities.

On Thursday, FCM released its Election 2019 recommendations to federal parties. The platform - titled Building Better Lives - is a call to improve Canadians' quality of life by empowering our local governments. After all, local governments are the ones closest to people's daily challenges.

Simply put, we're calling on all federal parties to commit to the recommendations in this platform.

FCM's cornerstone recommendation is to permanently double the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) transfer. Municipalities are responsible for 60 per cent of Canada's public infrastructure, but collect just 10 per cent of each Canadian tax dollar. The GTF helps by transferring predictable funds to municipalities to renew roads, bridges, water systems and other core infrastructure.

While the GTF model works, its current scale still leaves many vital repairs and upgrades unfunded every year. We know that the top priority in Prince George and for so many Canadians is the continual improvement of the local infrastructure we depend on. Road, bridges, water systems and community centres - these cornerstones of local life become stronger through a stable and predictable form of funding like GTF.

Permanently doubling the GTF is the most efficient and effective step the next government can take to build better lives, in communities of all sizes. FCM's recommendations also reflect the central and growing role local governments play in everyday life.

Next, a permanent public transit funding mechanism would empower municipalities to continue easing gridlock and shortening commutes for workers and families.

FCM's housing affordability proposals would continue growing the affordable housing supply while tackling the broader disconnect between rents, home prices and incomes.

New long-term funding for local climate adaptation would protect Canadians from more frequent, severe weather extremes, from wildfires to floods and storm surges.

I've often talked before about FCM's focus on rural issues. In this election, FCM is urging parties to champion rural and northern communities, by committing to universal Internet access and modernized, streamlined funding tools. Throughout this federal election, the candidates and leaders will speak frequently about their vision to improve the lives of Canadians. It's important for us all in local governments to seize this moment to put your concerns front and center on the agenda.

That is what we're doing. I urge you to check out more information about the platform at BuildingBetterLives.ca.

-- Garth Frizzell is a Prince George city councillor and the first vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.