Mayors Panel II: Cities & Tools for the Job

Join CUI’s Mary W. Rowe, Mayor Don Iveson from Edmonton, Mayor Brian Bowman from Winnipeg, and Mayor Bonnie Crombie from Mississauga, as they discuss what difference would new legislative powers and new revenue tools make to the capacity of Canada’s cities to solving our most pressing challenges, like climate change, housing, poverty, mental health, the recovery of local economies, and the municipal revenue base?

2021 Massey Cities Summit

From April 6-8 2021, The Massey Cities Summit 2021 brought together leaders from across Canada and the world to reimagine the municipal role in Canadian federalism, while also acknowledging the constitutional rights of First Nations.

Organised by Massey College and the Canadian Urban Institute (with much appreciated support from the Maytree Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada).

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Sustainable revenue tools for 21st century cities

Bonnie Crombie, the Mayor of Mississauga, highlights the fact that the City of Toronto Act grants broader permissive authority to raise new taxes than is available to other Ontario municipalities. She argues these tools should be available to other cities in Ontario like Mississauga. Agrees Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, cities need more robust own-source revenue tools or statutorily protected revenue sharing agreements.

2. Working collaboratively and sounding the alarm

Brian Bowman, the Mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba, suggests municipalities, as the order of government closest to the ground, is by nature more accessible and transparent to residents. He stresses the importance of striking the right balance between working collaboratively with other orders of government, and communicating publicly about the ways that authority, powers, and jurisdictional limitations are not working during COVID-19.

3. Provincial leadership is needed

According to Mayor Bowman, cities need to be ‘masters of our own domain’—and as creatures of the province, absent constitutional change, we need a bold premier who is willing to lean into the opportunity to empower cities.

4. We need “smarter” money.

The mayors agree that COVID recovery is led by Canadian cities. This is not about new taxes from his perspective, it is about getting better value for the money that’s already in the system. The mayors discuss whether the property tax is regressive and fair for residents as the main source of revenue for municipalities.

5. “Conditional Metropolitanism” is key

According to Mayor Iveson, the answer is not more asymmetrical federalism. Instead, we need “conditional metropolitanism,” where federal transfers are made on the condition that provinces work collaboratively with municipalities and Indigenous governments.