Lib­er­als to push flood mit­i­ga­tion

Min­is­ter: In­fra­struc­ture projects will be vet­ted for nat­u­ral disas­ter preven­tion as part of fed­eral funding process

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOR­DAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — The fed­eral Lib­er­als are look­ing to push more of the bil­lions they plan to spend on in­fra­struc­ture in the next decade di­rectly into flood mit­i­ga­tion, hop­ing to avoid re­peats of dis­as­ters in Que­bec and On­tario this month.

In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Amar­jeet Sohi said the idea the Lib­er­als will pro­mote to prov­inces, ter­ri­to­ries and cities is to agree to spend the money over and above the $2 bil­lion al­ready set aside to help lo­cal gov­ern­ments de­fend against nat­u­ral dis­as­ters like fire and flood­ing.

The move could po­ten­tially save the gov­ern­ment hun­dreds of mil­lions an­nu­ally in disas­ter re­lief pay­ments, which are ex­pected to rise over the com­ing years.

In a re­port last year, the par­lia­men­tary bud­get of­fi­cer es­ti­mated that pay­ments through the disas­ter fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance ar­range­ments could in­crease to more than $900 mil­lion a year over the next five years, in­clud­ing $673 mil­lion a year for flood­ing. Both costs are well above past av­er­ages paid out from the fund.

Through funding agree­ments with prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, Sohi said the gov­ern­ment wants “to ne­go­ti­ate lan­guage around ded­i­cat­ing re­sources to­ward flood mit­i­ga­tion and other dis­as­ters. “It’s a con­cern and we def­i­nitely want to have those con­ver­sa­tions with prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries.”

The push for more disas­ter funding will be part of what Sohi calls a “green lens” that lo­cal, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial gov­ern­ments will use on pro­posed in­fra­struc­ture projects be­fore they can be ap­proved for fed­eral funding.

Sohi said the lens puts the fo­cus on re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions dur­ing and af­ter con­struc­tion, as well as mit­i­gat­ing the im­pact of se­vere weather to re­duce the cost of dis­as­ters on com­mu­ni­ties.

“Not only the hu­man cost and the pain, the anx­i­ety that it causes and the dis­rup­tion of life for peo­ple, but also the eco­nomic cost to clean up af­ter­ward and the im­pact on the over­all econ­omy. This is part of our broader in­fra­struc­ture plan.”

The green lens will be part of the sec­ond phase of the Lib­er­als’ in­fra­struc­ture plan, which is to dole out $81.2 bil­lion on new, largescale projects in cities and prov­inces over the next 10 years.

The money will flow only af­ter prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries sign funding agree­ments with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, which will take months to con­clude be­cause of the size and scope of the plan.

The Lib­er­als are bank­ing on the in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing to prod eco­nomic growth to help boost fed­eral fi­nances that have been plunged into years of deficits partly be­cause of the in­fra­struc­ture plan.

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