Feds offer early $2.2B payment to cities amid ‘cash crunch’

PM also addresses protests that unfolded across North America over the weekend

Ottawa is offering $2.2 billion to cities as they face what the prime minister describes as a “cash crunch” during the pandemic.

The money was, in fact, already earmarked as federal support for cities via the gas tax fund.

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That fund was to be paid out in two installments, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday (June 1) the $2.2 billion for 2020-21 will be paid out in full to introduce immediate support for municipalities.

Municipalities’ hands have been tied when it comes to spending since, in most cases, they are not allowed to run deficits.

B.C.’s provincial government introduced measures in April such as allowing municipalities to borrow money from next year’s budget and delaying the payment of property taxes owed to Victoria until the end of 2021.

Trudeau said Ottawa will continue to work with the provinces to offer additional support to municipalities.

“We need to do more and we will do more,” he said.

The prime minister reiterated multiple times throughout his daily media briefing that municipalities fall under the jurisdiction of provinces.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities had been asking for at least $10 billion in support from Ottawa as they face the prospect of cutting services to residents at the same time local economies begin to restart.

The prime minister was pressed repeatedly about the fact that the funding offered Monday falls short of what municipalities had been asking for.

Trudeau said more support is coming, but the full extent of announcements could not be made without further co-operation and partnerships with the provinces.

The prime minister also took time to acknowledge protests that unfolded across North America and parts of Europe following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died last week during a confrontation with Minneapolis police officers.

“For far too many Canadians, the images and stories coming out of the U.S. are far too familiar,” he said.

Trudeau said anti-black racism and systemic discrimination are real and occur in Canada.

The prime minister faced widespread criticism during the last 2019 federal election after the emergence of multiple images of him in blackface.

Trudeau told reporters that he realizes his actions hurt others.

“I will continue to be an ally to minority communities, to racialized communities across this country and across this world,” he said.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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