They don’t have much on details, however Canada’s infrastructure ministers have the workings on how to think about distributing the second and more lucrative phase of capital spending. The second phase of an over all $120 billion program will be in place by the end of the year federal infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi announced.
“It’s very early in the discussions to draw a conclusion on whether it’s going to be a fixed cost sharing formula through out the country or if it’s going to differ from province to province,” Sohi told reporters at the wrap up of federal, territorial and provincial talks at the Shaw Conference Centre.
With seven municipal leaders in the room, including Mayor Don Iveson in his role as chair of the Big City Mayors’ of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and several former municipal politicians including Sohi, and Alberta’s Brian Mason, a lot of going over of municipal background was set aside.
“I think the approach that we’re taking which is different from the previous administration is that Ottawa does not always know what’s best to deliver these projects,” said Sohi in a dig at how the Harper government’s approach was perceived.
All insisted that no cost sharing was agreed to. Phase one in Alberta’s case is 50-25-25, although some other provinces are contributing as much as 33-percent towards the program. Mason reiterated the problem Alberta is facing right now where the program needs flexibility until the provincial economy improves and the deficit is reduced.
Iveson is hopeful the formula will be improved over 50-25-25. “Essentially the better the funding formula, the more or faster rapid transit we can build,” he said.
“So the question is what is the fair share? Certainly I’d like to see it for build out to be more mindful of the municipality’s fiscal capacity that we have so I would like to do better than the phase one formula and I’d like to work with the ministers to get there.”
There should be enough federal money on the table for Edmonton in phase two to build the western leg of the Valley Line LRT from downtown to Lewis Estates, as well as extend the Metro Line LRT onto Blatchford.
However, at a 50-25-25 cost share, Iveson concedes Edmonton will have to make other adjustments because its revenue from property tax won’t be enough to pay for everything.
“This is where it gets dicey,” he told reporters. “If we could it would probably mean a couple of rec centres we don’t build, some interchanges would not get built. So realistically council would have to look at the balance of that and start scaling back.”
“It wasn’t intended to slow down our overall infrastructure agenda or cause us to have to juggle the other priorities that are important to Edmontonians,” he said, adding that he’s had discussions with Mason proposing a funding scheme that would allow the province to provide more money up front, while using carbon tax revenue over the next couple of decades to pay off any money the province would borrow to cover that up front grant.
The ministers will reconvene later this year.