Infrastructure support necessary
Communities hope for more federal funds after election
Recipients of federal infrastructure funding tied to the Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan were more than happy to be the beneficiaries of millions spent on roads, harbours, and water and sewer infrastructure.
But whatever may come of the May 2 federal election, the next political party to lead the country can expect to hear further calls to continue allocating dollars and cents towards infrastructure project in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund and the Community Component Top-up, 46 projects across Newfoundland and Labrador received $66.5 million to help cover the costs of $176.5 million worth of work. Millions more has been spent through the Building Canada Plan, a 2007 project initially intended to cover seven years that was subsequently accelerated to deal with the downturn in the world economy.
In Trinity-Conception, 27 projects covering Whitbourne up to Bay de Verde and onwards to Brigus have received over $ 11 million worth of federal funds since 2009 under the Economic Action Plan.
One of the most recent beneficiaries is the Harbour Authority of Old Perlican. Its breakwater suffered structural damage at the hands of hurricane Igor last fall. The federal government eventually offered $1.2 million to cover all repairs.
“It helps a lot, but it only does part of the job,” said David Johnson, chair of the harbour authority’s board of directors.
A 12-month facility hosting upwards of 185 boats at a time with two seafood processors, Old Perlican is a lively port. Johnson said the harbour authority has been advocating for more dredging work to enable Old Perlican to service larger vessels.
“If you have a harbour authority that’s very busy, you have to accommodate them,” he said. “ We have a lot of boats now that will offload in their town, and then they’ll come to Old Perlican because it’s a safe harbour.”
The harbour can handle 80-foot vessels with a harbour that’s 4.4metres deep at a low mean tide. Johnson said some fish harvesters now buy 89-feet 11-inch boats.
“ When you get fishermen that are getting bigger boats and are fishing out of other communities and if there’s bad weather, they can’t stay there,” he said. “ Then they come to Old Perlican, and we need space to put them.”
According to information available on the Economic Action Plan website, almost $3.2 million has been allocated to be spent in Bay Roberts on almost $10 million in capital works projects. The provincial government and the Town of Bay Roberts cover the remaining costs.
Mayor Glen Littlejohn said council commissioned a study in 2006 to look at the community’s long-term infrastructure needs.
“ Our system is just about at capacity in certain areas,” he said, referencing the town’s water and sewer system. “ We need this for the growth of the town and the future of the town.”
Bay Roberts witnessed a recordsetting number of new housing starts in 2010 with 67, beating the previous record of 61 set the year before. Mayor Littlejohn estimates over 400 new homes have been hooked up to Bay Robert’s water and sewer system over the last 10 years.
Council is also eying the creation of a new business park south of the Conception Bay Access Road, in between Country Road and Veterans Memorial Highway.
“Anytime we can access stimulus funds or any type of federal-provincial money to improve our infrastructure, be it in-ground infrastructure or surface infrastructure like paving or sidewalks, that’s great,” said the mayor. “ The work gets done a little bit quicker, we can grow as a town, we can make it more attractive, and good things will happen.”
In November 2007, the Canadian Federation of Municipalities released a report that set the price for eliminating the country’s municipal infrastructure debt at $123 billion.
“ There’s always going to be a need for provincial and federal governments to look at providing some type of funding that communities and municipalities can use towards improving their infrastructure,” said Littlejohn. “It’s just a given.”
One major infrastructure project on the horizon for Bay Roberts is its recently announced intentions to build a recreation complex near Amalgamated Academy. A study from two years ago looking into the feasibility of building a new multipurpose facility for recreation estimated the project would cost $20 million.
“ We’re going to need both the federal and provincial governments to come on-side,” said Littlejohn.
Projects funded under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund were initially required to be completed by the end of last month. In December of last year, that deadline was changed to Oct. 31, 2011.
“We need this for the growth of the town
and the future of the town.”