As indicated in a recent Canadian Federation of Municipalities survey (PDF), residents of London and other Canadian cities are correct to perceive municipal infrastructure as a worsening problem. This result, however, does not merit the conclusions that respondants had been directed to make in correspondence with the lobbying objectives of the survey's authors: that underfunding of municipal properties by the federal government is responsible for the problem or that property tax revenues are insufficient for coping with it.*
Recent discussions on the sale of Mississauga's power utility suggest a far more responsible approach for cities to take to the problem of infrastructure, by raising revenues and discharging liabilities from their own bloated assets. If the City claims that $30 million is needed annually for maintenance and building of basic infrastructure, much of that amount can be claimed from debt-servicing obligations that have reached $59.8 million in 2008 alone. The savings from these costs would likely approach the $30 million annual figure alone by applying the proceeds of a sale of London Hydro — lately estimated at $246 million — to London's $350 million debt, and would certainly far exceed the $2 million the City annually receives in dividends from the utility. Considering that almost all of the utility's primary practises are governed by provincial agencies, Londoners have no tangible stake in public ownership of London Hydro beyond the merely symbolic — a decidedly weak value when compared to the very tangible prospect of increased taxes.
*Note: one must be extremely skeptical of a survey that identifies 67 per cent support for additional taxes over 30 per cent for lowering taxes, or 64 per cent support for re-increasing the GST to fund municipalities. When 38 per cent of respondents declare that affordable housing is one of the top two priorities for "additional attention," credibility of the survey's representativeness is completely blown out of the water.