Extra burden on rural taxpayers
Money for roads and bridges continues to top the agenda at meetings between Eastern Ontario municipal representatives and Members of Parliament.
“We have major investment challenges when it comes to our roads and bridge networks across the region,” warns Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus Vice-Chair Bill Dobson, the Warden of Lanark County.
The municipalities in 13 counties in Eastern Ontario own and are responsible for 73 per cent, or 69,110 kilometres of all roads, and 60 per cent of all bridges in the region.
“That equates to some 5,113 bridges and structures. Based on the needs for roads and bridges, we should be spending an additional $500 million to $600 million a year to keep them to an acceptable standard,” says Mr. Dobson.
The burden on individual taxpayers is heavier in the country than in the city.
The EOWC noted that in rural communities, the cost of improving one kilometre of road is shared by just five residences, while in urban areas it is shared by 25 homes.
The concern was underlined when, for the third consecutive year, members of the EOWC welcomed MPs to discuss priorities and partnership opportunities that would directly benefit rural Eastern Ontario.
EOWC Chair Robert Quaiff, Mayor of Prince Edward County, spoke about the importance of a regional approach and the need for increased collaboration between the federal government and rural municipalities.
“It is our job, as leaders of our municipalities, to bring forward our most pressing issues to the upper levels of government,” Mr. Quaiff notes. “The EOWC has a proven track record of working with its many partners, and specifically using research and data, to effectively explain why these should also be their priorities.”
The first priority is predictable infrastructure funding for roads and bridges. “The federal 2017 budget recognized the critical importance of managing and improving infrastructure in rural communities across Eastern Ontario, and the EOWC was pleased to see the federal government’s $2-billion commitment to rural and northern municipal infrastructure and how that funding will be awarded in part on the basis of need,” Mr. Quaiff comments.
The second item was the business case prepared by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) on closing the many cellular network gaps across rural Eastern Ontario. This project would improve cellular and mobile broadband services for the many residents and businesses without adequate service, while also improving the cellular network from a public-safety perspective for our first responders.
“The EOWC is working very closely with EORN on this project, as well as our partners in the federal and provincial governments and the private sector – just as we all worked together in partnership when we collectively brought improved high-speed internet to rural Eastern Ontario,” stated Warden Jim Bancroft of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
“Like with the broadband project, we hope to close these many cellular gaps on time and on budget, with the essential support and contribution of our partners – and today’s meeting was a great step forward in our mutual collaboration.”
PRICEY PAVEMENT: Rural politicians keep pressing for funds for projects such as the repaving of County Road 34 north of Alexandria.