Anne Golden is president and chief executive officer of The Conference Board of Canada.
Related Letters and Responses
You gotta think something is happening when Anne Golden, president and CEO of Canada’s largest corporate lobby is blessing the call for creating three new provinces out of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal by Alan Broadbent, the CEO of a private investment company (“Bold Prescription for Our Cities,” May 2008).
I should be delighted. Well, I’m not. Here’s why. First, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal already have exceptional status. As every city councillor in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec will tell you, there are rules for VTM and rules for everyone else. You don’t see Ottawa, Hamilton or Thunder Bay with city charters, do you? But this isn’t what really irritates me. What curdles is the smugness. These are folks who are running the country. Why are they writing and book reviewing like academics from Antigonish?
This says to me:
They have no real idea of just how desperate it is becoming for cities everywhere. In my city, our medical officer of health is threatening to close down all the city’s beaches unless we improve our sewage treatment, our stadium is literally falling down and we’re stealing from the province’s meagre infrastructure funding to pay for snow removal — and that’s just for hors d’oeuvres.
Yes, this mess is about 19th-century governance as Broadbent and Golden make clear, but it’s also about the municipal price index rising three times faster than the consumer price index. No electorate will allow politicians to raise taxes three times faster than the consumer cost of living. So cities are getting hammered from two directions simultaneously: out-of-control operational costs (try lining up 1,000 buses each morning at the pump) and a federal government that has the lion’s share of the taxes and no interest in cities. Why else would Jim Flaherty, the finance minister, say “he’s not in the business of fixing potholes”?
Either he doesn’t understand or he does and doesn’t care. My guess is Anne Golden and Alan Broadbent know this and that’s why they’re writing books. The other conclusion is the same as for Flaherty: despite their erudition, neither understands the gravity of the situation. In five years, there will be no more foreign wars because the 80 percent of North Americans who live in cities will be struggling to cope with environments and opportunities that are unravelling as fast as the subprime markets are today — that’s where the MPI/CPI trend line is taking us.