Canadian leaders to tackle issues at weekend conference

May 30, 2014

More than 2,000 of Canada's mayors and senior municipal leaders will gather in Niagara Falls over the next two days. They're taking part in the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. WBFO's Dan Karpenchuk looks at some of the issues that top the agenda.

The growing concern for just about all cities and towns is an infrastructure that many believe is severely underfunded. Bridges, roads and sewers, much of it built more than 70 years ago, are now either showing signs of age, crumbling or near collapse. Municipal governments say they just don't have the money to keep up and their calls for more help from Ottawa are growing louder.

An especially harsh winter, record-breaking in some regions, has also added to many woes. In Manitoba, the ground has frozen to depths that few could remember and at one point, more than 1,000 homes were grappling with frozen pipes.

It has all cost a lot of money, billions of dollars, in fact. Toronto and its area had to dig deep to find $275 million. The end result leaves the taxpayer more and more on the hook. Some estimates put the country's public infrastructure gap at $145 billion.

Anther issue is rail safety. The derailment of a train hauling oil cars and the explosion that followed destroyed the core of Lac Megantic, Quebec and killed 47 people. It revealed the need for tougher federal regulations on moving hazardous goods by rail through urban areas.

Disaster preparedness has become another hot issue, with the rail disaster, the ice storm and the flooding in Alberta all highlighting problems.

This weekend, delegates will be involved in workshops, strategy sessions and policy discussions on how to get municipalities to the top of the federal government agenda and pony up with more cash.