Local is better

It will likely take a lot of years for senior governments to catch on to the reality that local governments, both municipal and school boards, are facing an infrastructure deficit. The federal government, with a lot of prodding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, is slowly coming to the realization that without infrastructure, we don’t have a sustainable society.
The problem is made all the worse by the several factors.
When money is collected in taxes by senior governments and then doled out on a project by project basis, it is indeed welcomed by the winners but it does nothing to help the losers in the government grants lottery.
The other problem with collection and doling by senior governments is that there’s a large expense in the actual doling out of the money. Bureaucrats spend time and money designing the application criteria. They ponder questions like, “What is infrastructure?” Is it sewer and water and roads or is it statues and rinks and ball fields and riverbank re-construction? Is it walking trails or renewing heritage buildings. Once the criteria are debated and set up, then there’s the whole advertising process, the application process, the awarding process and then the evaluation process. The net result is that a lot of dollars get siphoned off on the way home to the municipalities.
That doesn’t even account for the design criteria. If federal and provincial dollars are involved, then the criteria for design becomes more complicated. Safety is a factor for certain but some design criteria go well past safety as engineers, architects and government bureaucrats debate everything from paint colours to gravel sizing.
There is a simpler way of doing things that eliminates almost all of the problems listed above. The senior governments collect gas and other taxes. They remit a portion to municipalities every year. What they could do is send a thank you letter to all the bureaucrats and simply send out a larger percentage of the taxes.
Currently municipalities can spend their gas taxes just about any way they want. Locally there are two different views of what is the priority for infrastructure. Minnedosa is concentrating on an excellent new recreation centre. Neepawa has leaned more towards water and sewer projects. That’s been their separate and quite different stated and practiced view of infrastructure. Neepawa invested infrastructure grant money into two water wells, two pipelines and an upgrade of the water treatment plant. Minnedosa is diligently planning and spending some initial money on their rec complex.
That municipalities choose different paths is a good thing, it’s a reflection of local priorities. However, local priorities will only be met if the feds and the province allow infrastructure dollars or gas tax rebates to be spent on local priorities. It should not be up to the federal or provincial governments to dictate how tax money is spent locally. The local councils, duly elected by the people they go face-to-face with every day, are in much better position to make those kinds of decisions.
Recently the feds had a travelling roadshow to find out what local priorities are. The province occasionally ventures out of Winnipeg to gather opinions. They both need to evaluate what they have heard and make major changes in how they allocate infrastructure dollars. 
The best decisions are local decisions, hopefully senior governments realize that.

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