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Halifax mayor wants more federal funding to make up for lost revenue

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage spoke to media after the vote on paying funds for the Nova Centre.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage spoke to media after the vote on paying funds for the Nova Centre. Alexander Quon/Global News File

Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor Mike Savage says municipalities across the country lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he’s looking for more assistance from the federal government.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) estimates $10-15 billion in non-recoverable losses country-wide.

Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $2.2 billion in expedited gas-tax payments for municipalities this year to ease cash-flow concerns.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau pledges to speed $2 billion in funding for cash-strapped cities
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau pledges to speed $2 billion in funding for cash-strapped cities

The funds are usually split into two payments, but Trudeau said in the announcement, “there is a need right now for liquidity, for support as they deal with this COVID crisis.”

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Savage says he was hoping for more.

“It’s not really new money; it’s advanced money,” he said.

The FCM said in a Monday press release, this money was already a part of municipal budgets, and only helps immediate liquidity issues.

Savage says Trudeau has been supportive with municipal infrastructure, but operating losses are what cities need right now.

READ MORE: Municipality to reduce police and fire services budget cut by $2 million each: council

“Municipalities are losing revenue. There’s no place to get it other than to increase taxes, which we’re not going to do, or to rack up deficits.”

He wants to see new money, and a part of it allocated directly to making up for funding lost by providing free transit.

READ MORE: Halifax Transit issues new measures after 2nd bus driver tests positive for COVID-19

Trudeau said in the announcement this is only the start to helping municipalities. “We need to do more and we will do more.”

Savage hopes municipalities are recognized as essential, and that the provincial government also helps out.

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“Between the feds and the province, there’s the capacity to help, and we hope there’s a will too,” he says.