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OP ED: Growth is good, but Halton needs to be ready, says councillor

Canadian municipalities must have financial sustainability to support the future we all deserve, says Nisan
Regional and municipal councillor Rory Nisan is also Ontario Caucus Chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

When Canada was founded, the population of our country was 3.4 million, and more than 80 per cent of Canadians lived in rural areas. Today, the population has eclipsed 40 million, with more than 80 per cent living in cities.

As the country has changed incredibly in just over 150 years, so have cities and our way of life. Unfortunately, municipal revenue systems have not evolved with this growth.

Municipalities are responsible for operating and maintaining more than 60 per cent of public infrastructure in our communities but receive less than 10 cents of every tax dollar collected. Outdated revenue sources are being stretched to fund critical front-line services such as roads, water distribution and treatment, waste collection, public health and emergency services, social services including long-term care, policing, and much more.

Halton Region is one of the fastest-growing communities in Canada, with an expected population of 1.1 million by 2051. Growth is good, but we must be ready.  This includes addressing major challenges like housing and homelessness, replacing aging infrastructure, and making our community less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, all of which are increasingly drawing on municipal resources.

Planning for growth served by high-quality infrastructure and community services is a high priority for Halton Region.

In May, as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) Annual Conference, municipalities came together and passed a resolution calling for national discussions around a new modernized Municipal Growth Framework – one that will link local municipal revenue with population and economic growth and the expanding programs and services municipalities continue to provide.

I was in Ottawa last week with my FCM colleagues to push for action on a new Municipal Growth Framework. Municipalities must have financial sustainability to support our growing communities so that we can continue to rely on high-quality, dependable local programs and services for generations to come.

Imagine a fast-growing Halton keeping pace with the quality of life we deserve in an uncertain future. This is doable with a new Municipal Growth Framework. That is the future I want for Halton Region, and the future you deserve.

Rory Nisan is a Deputy Mayor and City Councillor in Burlington (Ward 3), a member of Halton Regional Council and Ontario Caucus Chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.