PM Trudeau delivers remarks at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference
Hello, everyone. Welcome to Ottawa. Welcome to the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe people. I know it’s a long way for most of you, so thank you for making the trip.
FCM’s annual conference has become something of a tradition for me. I’ve now taken the stage for five years in a row and I always really look forward to coming back.
This event gives me a great opportunity to reflect on the work being done in and for Canadian communities. We know that our country is only as strong as the towns and cities we’re made of. We’re only as strong as our rec centres and social housing, or our wastewater systems and public transit. Whether you’re living in Vancouver or Val d’Or, the place you call home matters to you and therefore, it matters to me.
Federal, provincial, municipal, we all strive to create spaces that are more liveable, more welcoming, and more prosperous. That’s our job and we can never forget that we’re in this together.
We heard you loud and clear when you told us you needed a strong partner in Ottawa, a partner that would listen to you and work with you to improve the lives of Canadians across the country. Our government is proud to be that partner.
Every day, FCM and its members do incredible work to make our communities better places to live. From helping new Canadians feel at home to encouraging women to get involved in local politics, the scope of your impact cannot be overstated. And on that last point I know that at least a few of your city councils can boast gender equality. Including more women at the table is something we all share.
Last year I talked about our ambitious plan to invest in infrastructure and give middle class Canadians the help they need today while preparing for the future. And since then we’ve been able to accomplish a lot together. So far, nearly 3,000 infrastructure projects have been approved across the country. These projects were ready to go and your communities needed them. And on that note, I want to thank my friend Amarjeet Sohi for all his incredible work.
From his time as a municipal councillor to his new role as a minister, he has always been a strong advocate for communities, big and small, and the record number of projects approved attests to that.
One of our priorities was to invest in water and wastewater systems to ensure that every Canadian community, no matter where it is, has access to clean drinking water. To date, we’ve lifted 18 long-term boil water advisories in First Nations communities, bringing us closer to our goal of ensuring that all Canadians have access to clean drinking water.
No Canadian should have to worry about the quality of the water their family is drinking, or bathing in or playing in. With the goal of improving the quality and safety of our water sources, we have upgraded and repaired water and wastewater systems across the country, including in small and isolated communities. For example, we are in the process of building a new reservoir in Watson Lake, Yukon, so that families have access to clean drinking water continuously throughout the year. And in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, we’re making upgrades to the wastewater treatment system beyond what is necessary so that children can enjoy clean water for generations to come.
It’s not necessarily sexy, but these projects are the backbone of strong and growing communities. We’ve also made historic investments in public transit. For a decade, municipalities and provinces didn’t have the support they needed to keep up with the rapid pace of growth. You are leading your communities through big changes. Some of our big cities have had their populations double and their boundaries expand. Towns now need more elaborate bus networks to navigate their streets effectively and trains that connect them to city centres. There’s no doubt that the need for better, more efficient public transit is shared amongst communities, big and small. Canadians need transit to get them to work in time for the morning and home for dinner at night. We knew that investing in the things we needed, both for right now and for the future, we would create jobs, strengthen our communities, and grow our middle class.
But in order to have a real impact on the lives of real people, we needed your help. We turned to you, the experts, to identify the projects your communities needed most and we got to work. For the people of Sudbury, this means speeding up the bus fleet rebuild program and providing better access to the Kingsway; for commuters in Regina, this mean enhancing safety and security on buses and replacing old buses with newer ones; and for students living in Gatineau, across the river, it means expanding the Rapibus system so they can get to their classes on time right here in Ottawa.
These investments made in phase one are providing much needed improvements to our existing networks. Improvements that make our cities and towns safer, more efficient and more enjoyable places to live.
Our second budget builds on the progress that has been made to date to continue that work. We announced new historic investments to improve the way Canadians work, live and play. We know that each community has different needs, so we developed a plan reflecting that reality. As part of Budget 2017, we committed to paying two billion additional dollars over 11 years to rural and northern communities to address the specific needs of families living in remote areas. For example, these funds could be used to guarantee access to high-speed Internet service or to help certain communities reduce their dependence on diesel fuel.
To help you meet your priorities and achieve the targets you’ve set for your communities, we have also committed to providing predictable funding reserved for municipalities. We also recognized the fact that the old model of cost-sharing between municipal and provincial governments and the federal government did not always work. So we increased our share by up to 40 percent for public transit construction and development projects and by 50 percent for projects to improve existing systems.
And by working with... you can applaud that one -- that was a good one. I know you liked that one.
And by working with you and our provincial partners, we concluded some of the most ambitious investments to date in public transit infrastructure. In March, I was in Etobicoke to announce that our government would be investing more than $1.8 billion in the Go Regional Express Rail Network.
The Go Network is one of the largest transit projects that government has ever invested in but it does more than just add new trains and expand the existing system, it creates good, well paying jobs for middle class Canadians. It connects the people who live in different parts of the GTA to each other. It makes sure that families can enjoy everything their communities have to offer and with fewer cars on the road, it means cleaner air and greener communities.
Across the country we also heard from too many Canadians who struggle to find a safe and affordable place to live. Seniors who are forced out of their homes because they can no longer afford to pay rent. Young professionals who work long hours but still have to postpone buying their first home. Women and kids who fled violence at home and have no safe place to turn. This is the heart-breaking reality for far too many Canadians. Our cities and towns are the front lines, the very real housing challenges facing millions of Canadians.
You told us that you needed more resources and more support, that you need a serious federal partner here for the long haul. And that’s why we decided to take action in Budget 2017. Over the next 11 years the federal government will invest $11.2 billion to build and repair more affordable homes for people in need.
Of that, $5 billion will be dedicated to the creation of a new national housing fund which will prioritize projects that will have the greatest impact on communities.
Our objective is to reduce by 50 percent the number of people living on the street and help them get back on their feet. With the new housing strategy, we’re on track to meet that objective. For the first time, we are putting a framework in place that will allow us not only to resolve the current housing problems, but to fight against housing insecurity and deal with homelessness for future generations. The new housing strategy is just one of the measures that our government is taking to give more help to those in need.
In recent years, the number of people using opioids has risen dramatically, and the consequences are devastating. Families torn apart, loved ones leaving us too soon, the opioid epidemic is not an issue we can shut our eyes to. And these addiction problems affect everyone.
Workers who are prescribed medication for back pain struggle with addiction as their prescriptions run out. Teenagers at a party who make a mistake with deadly consequences. Moms, dads, friends and classmates whose lives are torn apart by tragedy. The opioid epidemic has touched the lives of countless Canadians in one way or another. In our latest budget, we committed additional funding to keep these harmful drugs out of our kids’ hands and help those struggling with addiction. This builds on a number of important steps we’ve taken over the last year to give communities, service providers and first responders the tools they need.
As governments we know there’s more to do. We will not rest until we turn the tide. We must come together to address this crisis and that’s why we’re working with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners to find lasting solutions.
And on that last point, I’d like to specifically thank Mayor Robertson as well as Mayor Iveson and the Big City Mayors’ Caucus for their incredible, compassionate, determined leadership on this issue.
We are listening and we are here to work with you. Overall, we’ve built a plan that not only provides immediate fixes for the short term but that also creates long term solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing Canadians and their families.
Last year, the town of Fort McMurray was ravaged by forest fires, and this year, families in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces were hard hit by unprecedented flooding. Our communities are going to have to contend with more events like these due to climate change. We know it, so we have to prepare for it and keep transitioning towards a clean energy economy.
In our last budget, we announced that two billion dollars would be invested in setting up a Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund. Over these past months, we have observed the devastating consequences that extreme meteorological conditions can have on families, business owners and their communities. These funds will be used to build dykes and other infrastructure to prevent damage to homes, schools and businesses and to help protect our communities. Cities have long been at the forefront of action on climate change. So I want to thank you. You are our partners in what constitutes the greatest challenge of our generation.
While we deliver for middle class families and their communities today, we need to keep an eye focused on the future. That’s why we started to lay the groundwork for other innovations in our ambitious plan to build greener, smarter, better towns and cities. The cities and towns of the future start with transforming the way infrastructure is planned, developed, and built.
We’ve recently announced the creation of the new Canada Infrastructure Bank which will get our communities growing now, not ten years from now. The bank will be responsible for attracting capital from the private sector that will in turn be invested in transformative projects. Once operational, the bank will be yet another tool to move new projects forward, projects that will create more jobs, make our communities more inclusive and grow the economy.
But I want to be very clear that this will be an optional tool. Over 90% of our long term plan will be delivered through grants. But the bank is a way for us to leverage private capital and help our dollars go even further.
Because we know budgets are tight and there’s not a lot of leeway to do things differently. You often have to choose between meeting the immediate needs of your residents and putting your innovative and creative ideas into practice. We understand that and we want to help you.
Today the federal government is introducing the Smart Cities Challenge to give you a platform to dream big, innovate and implement bold ideas.
Today the federal government is introducing the Smart Cities Challenge to give you a platform to dream big, innovate and implement bold ideas.
We invite communities across Canada to develop ambitious plans to improve the lives of their residents and help us build Canada’s future. The cities of the future will be smart cities. Will that translate into fibre optics connecting every home and every business? Smart roads and traffic lights? Or bidirectional power distribution networks? Or all of the above or something completely different? It’s up to you to decide and make your case.
We’re inviting communities across Canada to develop ambitious plans to improve the lives of their residents and help us build Canada’s future. Working with local businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs, communities will be able to submit their plan for innovation and the most promising designs will receive funding to bring those ideas to life.
We will launch three separate editions of the Smart Cities Challenge with the first edition beginning this year. Each time five prizes will be awarded. The best project will win $50 million. Two smaller communities with big ideas will receive $10 million, and one smaller or rural or remote community will win $5 million.
An additional $5 million will also be given to a project for an Indigenous community.
We will officially launch this program this fall. But Minister Sohi and his team will be working with key partners this summer to ensure that you have everything you need to start dreaming big right now. We hope that this competition of ideas will encourage us all to think outside the box. There’s serious money at stake, sure. But I know this room. The bragging rights will be just as motivating. So I have no doubt that it will push you to take your ideas to the next level and imagine the best possible solutions for the people you so proudly represent.
We know that to build the communities of tomorrow, collaboration across all levels of government is essential. The Smart Cities Challenge and the Infrastructure Bank are just some examples of what we have in store. But while we’re getting excited about the future and the new opportunities that it’ll bring, we can’t forget that for many of our citizens, change brings anxiety. It creates uncertainty about what the future holds. So while we’re imagining the cities of tomorrow, our government is also making sure that Canadians have access to good, middle class jobs today, that our kids have even better opportunities than we did, that we can all grow old in the communities that we built.
My friends, we can all be very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together and even more excited about what lies ahead. Thank you for your partnership and for all that you do for Canadians and their families. Every day, we are building stronger, more inclusive communities where every Canadian can live, work, and succeed. Communities that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy for generations to come because of the collective leadership in this room today.
Thank you very much, my friends. Thank you very, very much.