Both federal and provincial infrastructure ministers have signed off on dozens of transit and water projects at a ceremony at the Legislature. They total $1.08 billion. The list of Edmonton projects was reviewed at a city council meeting Aug. 23, and concentrates on upgrading existing infrastructure.
“We acknowledged that the federal government in the past has not been a partner in the rehabilitation and the fixing of the existing infrastructure as well as not supporting the long term planning for municipalities,” said federal minister Amarjeet Sohi. “And those were the perspectives that I was able to bring to the table because of my own municipal experience.”
When the funding was first identified in a City Hall report, the province was criticized for contributing 25-per cent of the funds, instead of the traditional 33-per cent. Minister Brian Mason wouldn’t comment on if a future phase two of the program will restore 33-percent funding.
He said as a former member of Edmonton city council as well, he’s well aware of how unfair the funding system is. “Very expensive projects in areas social housing and modern transit systems are not affordable based on the property tax base that’s available to municipalities. We recognize that. What we need to do though is balance that with our current fiscal capacity which is quite a bit weaker than it was just a few years ago.”
The problem right now is the price of oil.
“We would like to be as generous as possible, but we’d like to take into account the fact that we need to manage the deficit and that is a challenge for us and we’re going to continue to work with the federal government and with our municipal partners in order to make sure as much money as possible can flow to municipalities for these important projects.”
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Legislature in February, Sohi at the time mentioned he wanted to have Alberta’s $700 million share of the Building Canada Fund used to stimulate more infrastructure spending. However he said he’s since found out how much red tape is tied to that fund from the Harper government and is still trying to simplify the system.
Sohi was reluctant to say what Edmonton’s share would be spent on. “I’ve had something to do with that list,” Sohi chuckled. “And I understand those priorities, I understand the railway crossing on 50th street is number one priority for the city. I understand the Yellowhead is another area that is a priority of the city and Brian and I are working very closely and collaboratively on the Yellowhead.”
Sohi will meet with the provincial and territorial infrastructure ministers at a two day meeting in Edmonton Sept 6-7. It’s at that get together they’ll begin preliminary planning on phase two of the program that’s to total $20 billion over ten years.
You can read the city council Aug 23 agenda here. Infrastructure reports are under item 6.3