THIS week, Canada's municipalities called on Ottawa to hatch a long-term plan to fix the country's aging infrastructure. Given that the plea coincided with a $5-billion bump in this year's federal deficit projection, they - and we - are probably out of luck, but the idea shouldn't be discarded.
Reliable infrastructure is vital to any community's well-being. Without good roads, bridges, sewers and transit systems, cities suffer economically, socially and in terms of health.
Unfortunately, good infrastructure requires constant investment of a kind that has little political payoff. While a shiny new bridge or transit line may wow an electorate, few voters are inspired by the expensive and mundane business of keeping those baubles up to par.
As a result, the past several decades have seen a steady decline in the quality of infrastructure across the country, as governments at every level put off again and again all but the most urgently needed upgrades and replacements.
Now, with the problem coming to a head, municipalities have sounded the alarm, begging Ottawa to commit to a 20-year plan that would see federal investment rise to $5.75 billion a year - a sum that would be attached by provinces and municipalities.
Only the most ardent optimists will expect the federal government to agree to that right now, but Ottawa should seriously consider the proposal when our country finally claws its way out of the current slump.
Only then will we break the cycle of neglect that is allowing our cities to crumble.