Thursday, March 23, 2017

Federal budget stays the course on infrastructure, transit, and housing investment

Local governments are responsible for 60% of infrastructure like water lines, sewer mains, and roads in Canada, but only collect 12% of all tax revenue. Much of this infrastructure is coming to its end-of-life, and needs to be replaced. The federal government has to be a key funding partner to ensure that our infrastructure remains in a state of good repair, and meets the needs of our growing communities.

Public transit in Canada needs to be expanded and renewed. The federal government has promised a National Housing Strategy to address the affordable housing crises in our major regions, and a plan to reduce the number of people who are homelessness.

Yesterday, the 2017-18 federal budget was released. I wanted to share some of the highlights of the budget as it relates to local government infrastructure, transit, and housing.

For public transit, the federal government is still committed to investing $3.4 billion over the next several years, and $20.1 billion over the next decade.

The federal budget calls out the Vancouver Broadway Subway as an “ambitious transit project.” The funding formula for transit investment will now be based on ridership (70 per cent) and population (30 per cent) for transit services area. This is good as it ensures that the federal government doesn’t cherry-pick projects. This is also good news for our region's 10-Year Transit Vision.

The feds announced a Canada Infrastructure Bank last fall. In the budget, it states that this new bank will invest at least $5 billion in public transit systems.

The federal government is also still committed to investing $5.0 billion over five years and $21.9 billion over the next decade for water, wastewater, and green infrastructure projects that will help local governments and communities.

Another key part of local infrastructure is cultural spaces like performing art centres. The federal government is committed to providing $300 million over 10 years to support the construction and renewal of these spaces. This is a continuation of the funding announced in the 2016-17 budget which was originally limited to just two years.

The federal government is also launching its new $5 billion National Housing Strategy. The feds have committed to investing $11.2 billion over 11 years for housing in Canada.

Much of the new funding doesn’t start until later budget years. This year’s federal spending plan is about staying the course set in last year’s federal budget.

I am happy to see that there are no cut backs to last year’s budget when it comes to investing in local government infrastructure, transit, and housing.

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