Ken­ney un­veils $200M for ru­ral in­fra­struc­ture

Prov­ince says spend­ing will cre­ate as many as 1,800 jobs

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - SAMMY HUDES shudes@postmedia.com Twit­ter: @Sam­my­hudes

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment will pour $200 mil­lion into up­grades for lo­cal bridges, roads, com­mu­nity air­ports and wa­ter supplies in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties through­out Al­berta, Premier Ja­son Ken­ney an­nounced Fri­day.

The money will flow to small mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties through grants, creating up­wards of 1,800 jobs in those com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to the prov­ince.

Around $50 mil­lion will be de­liv­ered through ad­di­tional fund­ing un­der the Strate­gic Trans­porta­tion In­fra­struc­ture Pro­gram (STIP), sup­port­ing 69 in­fra­struc­ture projects and 480 jobs.

That’s on top of $60 mil­lion al­lo­cated for STIP grants in the UCP gov­ern­ment’s 2020 bud­get.

Ken­ney said this fund­ing would be vi­tal to help kick-start the econ­omy, which has been stalled due to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“The job-creating in­vest­ments that we are an­nounc­ing today will cre­ate hun­dreds of jobs and stim­u­late eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity right away,” he told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence.

“I mean, like, im­me­di­ately. This up­com­ing week, projects be­gin.”

The other three-quar­ters of the fund­ing an­nounced Fri­day would sup­port 55 wa­ter and waste­water im­prove­ment projects, creating around 1,300 jobs, ac­cord­ing to the prov­ince.

Of that, $137 mil­lion is al­lo­cated to the Al­berta Mu­nic­i­pal/waste­water Part­ner­ship, while $13 mil­lion is for the First Na­tions Wa­ter Tie-in Pro­gram.

Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Ric Mciver said the fund­ing an­nounce­ment is a di­rect re­sponse to re­quests from lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, which pro­vided a list of projects crit­i­cal to their com­mu­ni­ties.

“These pro­grams are pop­u­lar with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and are al­ready in place, mean­ing that we can get the money out the door faster and sup­port projects mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties need and have al­ready asked for,” he said.

Ru­ral Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Al­berta pres­i­dent Al Kem­mere called it a “wel­come an­nounce­ment,” not­ing bridge fund­ing re­mains the No. 1 grow­ing deficit among RMA mem­bers.

“So this goes a long ways,” he said.

“We’d love to see a longer-term fund­ing piece that’s a lit­tle more pre­dictable, but we’ll take what we’re get­ting right now.”

Kem­mere said “hun­dreds of mil­lions” of dol­lars are still needed to sup­port ru­ral roads, bridges, wa­ter lines and sewer lines, which he called “de­pre­ci­at­ing as­sets.”

Joe Ceci, the NDP’S mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs critic, called the UCP’S an­nounce­ment a “drop in the bucket.” He called on the gov­ern­ment to dou­ble fund­ing un­der the Mu­nic­i­pal

Sta­bil­ity Ini­tia­tive. Kem­mere said he sup­ported that call.

“I’m hop­ing this isn’t the only piece be­cause we’ve asked for MSI to be sig­nif­i­cantly en­hanced, too,” he said.

“I’m hop­ing that is still com­ing and I haven’t seen an an­nounce­ment that in­cludes that. We’ve been ask­ing for that for a stim­u­lus ap­proach for quite some time.”

Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment didn’t con­tain any new fund­ing for projects in Al­berta’s big cities.

The premier said there would “hope­fully” be ad­di­tional an­nounce­ments next week about mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing to cre­ate jobs in cities like Cal­gary and Ed­mon­ton.

“We are in on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions with both the two big cities, the Al­berta Ur­ban Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tions and the Gov­ern­ment of Canada in this re­gard,” Ken­ney said.

“I would have liked to have moved ear­lier, but to be hon­est, part of the thing that we’ve been wait­ing for is clar­ity on what the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in­tends to do.”

Ken­ney said he still lacks cer­tainty on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment of up to $14 bil­lion in fed­eral trans­fers to prov­inces to help re­launch their economies ear­lier this month. He spec­u­lated around $2 bil­lion of that could be ear­marked for mu­nic­i­pal sup­ports.

“We ac­knowl­edge that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are un­der stress this year, as is ev­ery level of gov­ern­ment and ev­ery­one in the pri­vate sec­tor,” he said.

But Ceci said Al­berta can’t af­ford to wait as so many peo­ple re­main out of work.

“The econ­omy is sput­ter­ing and in re­ces­sion now,” Ceci said. “We need to use what­ever levers we have at the pro­vin­cial level to get money to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.”

He also said the UCP must pro­vide clar­ity on Cal­gary’s Green Line LRT project, which re­ceived near-unan­i­mous ap­proval from city coun­cil ear­lier this week.

The city is expecting about $3 bil­lion com­bined from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments for the project. But in a let­ter re­leased Wed­nes­day, Mciver noted the project has “un­der­gone sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant changes in scope and cost since it was first an­nounced,” and the prov­ince hadn’t yet an­a­lyzed it in de­tail.

Mciver’s let­ter said the prov­ince must en­sure the $1.53 bil­lion it has com­mit­ted to the Green Line is “used re­spon­si­bly,” and that the gov­ern­ment would an­a­lyze the ben­e­fits and risks of the cur­rent align­ment “be­fore obli­ga­tions are in­curred by the prov­ince, to en­sure that tax­pay­ers are pro­tected.”

Ceci ac­cused Mciver of “in a sneaky, un­der­handed way, try­ing to kill the Green Line.”

“For him to say ‘I need more in­for­ma­tion’ is just an­other kind of way of man­u­fac­tur­ing an es­cape route that he can press,” Ceci con­tin­ued.

“What Cal­gar­i­ans want is this project funded now. We need bold re­sponses in or­der for the econ­omy to re­cover.”

CHRIS SCH­WARZ/GOV­ERN­MENT OF AL­BERTA

Premier Ja­son Ken­ney says work on in­fra­struc­ture projects will be­gin as soon as this com­ing week.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.