Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Federal government delivers big dollars to support local infrastructure

The federal government released its 2016 budget yesterday, and I was eager to see how the budget would support local government infrastructure. Local governments in Canada are responsible for maintaining around 60% of publicly-owned infrastructure in this country, yet only 10% of total taxation revenue is collected by local governments.

Local governments need the support of other levels of government to ensure that clean drink water is available, wastewater is properly treated, roads are in a state of good repair, transit service is running smooth, and park and recreation facilities are meeting the needs of residents.

In Metro Vancouver, there has been a loud call for more to be done to address affordable housing in the region.

When it comes to infrastructure spending, the federal government really does support local governments.

The federal government is still committed to the current $9 billion National and Regional Project Fund. This fund can be used for the following items:

  • Highways and major roads
  • Public transit
  • Connectivity and broadband
  • Drinking water
  • Wastewater
  • Solid waste management
  • Green energy
  • Innovation
  • Brownfield redevelopment
  • Disaster mitigation infrastructure
  • Local and regional airports
  • Short-line rail
  • Short-sea shipping

$1.1 billion of this $9 billion fund is allocated for projects in BC.

Other current federal infrastructure programs will be rolled into the Gas Tax Fund. In Metro Vancouver that fund is dedicated to TransLink projects.

City of Langley Council just approved a request on Monday for City Staff to apply for funding under the federal Small Community Fund. I wonder if this program will still be available, or if it will be rolling into the Gas Tax Fund.

The federal government also announced $11.9 billion in new funding as noted on the following chart.

Chart of funding available in Phase 1 of Canada's New Infrastructure Plan. Select chart to enlarge.

About $3.4 billion has been set aside for new transit funding over the next few years. Up to $460 million will be available for public transit projects in BC. The federal government will pay for up to 50% of the cost of transit projects in BC via the National and Regional Project Fund and the new Public Transit Fund.

$1.5 billion will also be invested into affordable housing which includes a special fund to reduce homelessness, and another fund for seniors housing. Both of these funds will be useful for the City of Langley.

$4.2 billion in new infrastructure investment in the federal government’s plans is set aside to ensure that we have clean water, and that wastewater is properly treated. For example, the federal government will make $212 million available to upgrade the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant.

No new money was announced to fund highway projects such as the Massey Bridge. It seems that the federal government is committed to investing in building a Canada with lower GHG-emissions.

When it comes to our province, I hope that the provincial government can get its act together, so that we can take advantage of the significant funding from both the old and new federal infrastructure programs to support public transit in our region.

Update: I had a look at the 2016-17 Report on Plans and Priorities for Infrastructure Canada. The Small Communities Fund is still active.

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