Community infrastructure announcement good news
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
“By increasing the federal cost share, and reducing the contribution amounts that so many small communities were unable to afford, they are now in a much better position to address their unique infrastructure priorities – this is great news for many communities in the Kenora riding.”
That’s what Kenora MP Bob Nault said March 15 when announcing help for smaller rural and northern communities in Ontario so they can better afford infrastructure projects.
Nault made the announcement on behalf of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi.
“The federal cost share for infrastructure projects in small communities will increase from 50 per cent to 60 per cent for municipal projects in Ontario’s rural and northern regions. For communities under 100,000, municipalities will now be responsible for 17 per cent of infrastructure project costs – down from 33 per cent,” Nault explained.
He added, “Smaller communities with a population base of less than 5000 will now be responsible to contribute only 7 per cent. These communities will be in a better financial position to apply for funding on projects such as facilities that support food security, local roads, renewable energy, and enhanced broadband connectivity.
“The funding announcement builds on Ontario’s commitment to infrastructure. The province’s investments are already supporting priority projects across the province such as schools, hospitals, public transit, roads, and bridges.”
Nault noted, “I think the opportunities will increase for the municipalities both under 5000, and over, to be able to put more proposals in because obviously the formula has changed so that communities like Sioux Lookout for example, will only have to put forward 17 per cent versus 33 per cent. So I think it will have an impact over time with proposals that are going to be put forward under the northern and rural stream because we, as northern and rural caucus, have been pushing pretty hard that communities in the north, small municipalities, just have a small tax base and big infrastructure needs… this will hopefully increase the opportunities for proposals by 50 per cent.”
Nault said he is especially excited about the impact this will have on communities in the riding with populations of less than 5000.
“Some of these really small communities have told me that they just don’t have any tax base to participate in any significant proposal.”
“This is great news for the North and for our communities in the Kenora riding,” Nault stated. “The increased investment ratio will put municipalities in a much better position to modernize their infrastructure and, in turn, attract new businesses and improve the quality of life for residents.”
Asked when the changes might come into effect, Nault responded, “I expect we’ll start to see by early summer proposals, and discussions about changing proposals, with the new funding formula. It should start within a few months at the latest, if not earlier.”
“My next job,” Nault said, “is to try and find a way for FedNor to change its policies and be more understanding of some of the complexities of the small business community here in the Northwest, so we’re working on that.”
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance commented, “The announcement from MP Bob Nault is good news for municipalities. Through our various municipal associations we have been advocating for this increased Federal contribution to infrastructure projects.
“Under this new formula for eligible projects, for a community our size, our contribution goes down to 1/6 from the current 1/3 of eligible project costs. We currently have some projects approved or underway under the previous 1/3 Municipal, 1/3 Provincial, 1/3 Federal formula (town beach and airport terminal expansion). It is unlikely we can change those agreements as they are already in place - not to say that we won’t ask. The Cafetorium is certainly one we will ask about eligibility under this announcement.”
Lawrance noted, “Our Public Works rarely enters into the three party agreements as the criteria normally looks for economic spin-off and the straight replacement of sewer/water and road surface doesn’t normally meet the criteria. The provincial Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) program is what Public Works normally uses, and it covers up to 90 per cent of project costs. This was used for the King Street project between First and Third Avenues.
“The last Public Works project under a three party agreement was the Wellington / Fifth Avenue intersection. We don’t currently have any Public Works infrastructure projects pending or applied for under this new funding model. However, the 2017 OCIF funding that was denied for the Third Ave and Front Street project may be a potential project under the new model.”
Lawrance concluded, “We are very pleased with the new funding model announcement but it is really too early to tell exactly how we may benefit from such, other than our funding portion of any future approved projects will be significantly reduced.”
Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli stated, “Every dollar we invest in infrastructure is an investment in quality of life and our job-creating economy. We are pleased to join the federal government in building the public transit, green, recreation, and other infrastructure the people of Ontario need and deserve. The $10 billion we are committing to Phase 2 of the Investing in Canada Plan will be derived in part from Ontario’s unprecedented investment of $190 billion in public infrastructure over 13 years.”
“The Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion in infrastructure over 12 years, which is already generating increased economic activity across the country,” Nault concluded.
The funding will be made available through a new bilateral agreement recently completed between Infrastructure Canada and Ontario.