Watching municipal governments around the province wrestle with budgets in the wake of the COVID19 outbreak, it is a stark reminder that the time is long past for local authorities to have more flexibility in raising money.
At this point, about all they have is property tax, some fees and parking tickets as a source of revenue. And now is when we need them to spend – to prime the pump of the local economy – and infrastructure is clearly one place they could play a role.
After all, it is local government that reminds senior levels that the infrastructure deficit runs between $125 billion and north of $600 billion. So the work needs done but finding ways to finance it is the challenge.
We could borrow a page from the Americans who are more adept at constructing financial tools for government. They rely on tax-free municipal bonds for this kind of activity and it might be time for Ottawa to give local government here the freedom to raise capital independently rather than having them constantly begging to Ottawa for infrastructure funding.