Short-term projects first focus of federal infrastructure funds
The federal government on Monday released funding numbers for projects in cities and municipalities to backup the Liberal party’s campaign promise to make infrastructure a major component of its economic policy.
Infrastructure Canada plans to invest more than $120 billion in projects over the next 10 years, and is expected to carry over and expand the previous Conservative government’s New Building Canada Fund.
One major change under the Liberals is the elimination of the need for local governments to seek private-sector partnership arrangements on their projects.
“Our plan will focus on accelerating federal investments in the short term by providing funding for projects that rehabilitate and modernize public infrastructure,” federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi wrote in letters to provincial governments. “We will achieve this by working collaboratively with you and our municipal partners who are best placed to quickly identify their priorities for funding.”
Much of the money will come through new programs created by the Liberal government — the $3.4-billion Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and the $2-billion Clean Water Wastewater Fund.
The biggest portion of the PTIF will go Ontario, which will receive $1.5 billion, and the province will also receive the biggest portion from the CWWF, about $520 million. Alberta, which has seen its economy collapse with the plunge in energy prices, will receive close to $213 million through the PTIF and nearly $147 million from the CWWF.
The first phase of spending will focus mainly on repairing the country’s crumbling road and transit systems across the country.
Over the next three years, Sohi said in his letters, new projects related to public transit, water and waste water infrastructure will receive funding retroactive to April 1.
“Work can begin immediately,” wrote Sohi, who added that the first two years of the program will include $6.6 billion in cash for provinces and cities.
The first phase of the Liberals’ 10-year infrastructure plan ends in 2019, which is the same year as the next federal election.
Sohi was attending a cabinet retreat Monday at a mountain resort in Kananaskis, Alta., along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the 29 other federal ministers.
“Within that (first phase), we are also allowing flexibility for municipalities to plan for the long term,” Sohi told reporters during a break in cabinet discussions.
“There are big challenges related to not doing the rehabilitation and the repairs that are necessary and, for Phase 2, we have already started consultations with (cities), and that’s where we will have the opportunities to support transformative projects,” he said.
“So, there’s money for design, there’s money for planning and there is money for doing small projects if they are ready to move ahead with them.”
The changes to existing programs “make them more flexible and responsive, reduce unnecessary administrative burden and streamline approvals,” Infrastructure Canada said on its website.
“In the coming weeks, the government of Canada will work closely with all provinces and territories to sign bilateral agreements that will allow funding from these new programs to flow to Canadian communities and also ensure that funding from the New Building Canada Fund can quickly be put to work to address infrastructure needs from coast to coast to coast.”