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Coronavirus: Municipalities ask feds for $10B to maintain vital services

Click to play video 'Halifax to lay off 1480 casual, seasonal employees' Halifax to lay off 1480 casual, seasonal employees
WATCH: Halifax to lay off 1480 casual, seasonal employees – Apr 15, 2020

The voice of Canadian municipalities says communities across the country are facing a financial crisis due to COVID-19 that puts people at further risk.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Bill Karsten told the House of Commons finance committee Friday that plummeting revenues are endangering essential services, from policing to garbage collection.

About 25,000 jobs have been lost at the municipal level as a result of the pandemic, with some 7,000 temporary positions going unfilled, Karsten said.

READ MORE: Ontario municipalities worry about going in the red due to COVID-19

With few fiscal tools available and no legal ability to run deficits, municipal leaders are confronting challenges they’ve never seen before, he said.

The federation is asking for at least $10 billion in emergency operating money for local governments.

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“Make no mistake, municipal leaders are working flat out to help Canadians through this,” Karsten said.

Click to play video 'Financial plan to help municipalities balance books during coronavirus crisis' Financial plan to help municipalities balance books during coronavirus crisis
Financial plan to help municipalities balance books during coronavirus crisis – Apr 16, 2020

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week the federal government was very aware of the urgency of the difficulties facing municipalities, signalling that money could be on the way.

Mike Hurley, mayor of Burnaby, B.C., cited an urgent need for federal support to sustain fire and police services, sewage systems, the water supply and trash collection.

“We are on the ground every day striving to meet the needs of the citizens and communities directly,” he told the MPs on the committee.

READ MORE: New Brunswick municipalities hoping for aid as pandemic takes economic toll

He rhymed off a list of federal programs to help businesses through the COVID-19 crisis, noting they do not apply to local governments.

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“The vulnerable populations, specifically the homeless and seniors, are struggling in the community,” Hurley said.

Cathy Heron, mayor of St. Albert, Alta., said federal support would provide a level of certainty and allow municipalities to continue offering essential services.

“Any support, whether it be operation injections or capital, will need to be fast and easy,” she said. “We do not make this request lightly.”

Click to play video 'Nova Scotia municipalities say they need assistance during coronavirus pandemic' Nova Scotia municipalities say they need assistance during coronavirus pandemic
Nova Scotia municipalities say they need assistance during coronavirus pandemic – Apr 16, 2020

Municipal leaders will be on the front lines of reimagining communities in a post-COVID world, but need the tools to do it, she added. The city has already set up a recovery task force to guide it through the rest of the year and 2021.

“Ultimately, the successful future emergence will link back to our ability to access revenues today.”

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