Canada and Yukon commit to water infrastructure and transit funding

The federal and territorial governments have signed a $69-million combined funding agreement for infrastructure projects across the territory.

The federal and territorial governments have signed a $69-million combined funding agreement for infrastructure projects across the territory.

Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, Community Services Minister Currie Dixon and Yukon MP Larry Bagnell made the announcement Wednesday in Ottawa.

“We’re the first jurisdiction in the country to sign that agreement and to flow this federal infrastructure funding starting now,” Dixon told the News. “That’s a result of the very strong working relationship we have with the Government of Canada.”

The bilateral agreement will see $51 million from Canada’s Clean Water and Wastewater Fund doled out for 21 projects across the territory over the next three years, ranging from lagoon updates in Old Crow to construction of a new reservoir in Watson Lake to wastewater line upgrades in Mayo.

The federal government will also contribute $890,000 from the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund to the City of Whitehorse’s transit system.

The Yukon must contribute 25 per cent of the costs for the new projects, totalling roughly $17 million for the work on the water systems and $290,000 for transit.

Work on two of the projects – upgrades to the Ross River sewage lagoon and the construction of a water line from the Tagish firehall to the water treatment plant – will begin this year.

The other projects are in the design and engineering phases.

“We’re in the position this year that we have a very strong financial position, we have no net debt, we have a balanced budget and we’re able to make investments in infrastructure like this by partnering with the Government of Canada at a 75/25 per cent funding ratio to construct these projects,” Dixon said.

“We have the funding in place to do many of these projects, and for some of them that will be done in a future year, we’ll budget accordingly in future years.”

Dixon said the territory doesn’t have money in the budget this year for Whitehorse transit. The Yukon government is in discussions with the City of Whitehorse to determine where the 25 per cent territorial contribution would come from, he said.

He said those funds could come from municipal coffers – each year, the city budgets money for transit.

But Peter O’Blenes, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations, said he wasn’t aware the territory wouldn’t be paying the 25 per cent contribution. He said city staff would have to consider where that money could be drawn from, with council ultimately voting on it.

The City of Whitehorse is in need of two replacement buses for 2018, so the funding comes at a “perfect” time, O’Blenes said. The $1 million, which must be spent by March 2018, would cover the cost of purchasing two buses, he said.

Given this timeline, the funding likely would have to be factored in to the 2017-18 budget, he said.

“This is great for the territory and great for Whitehorse,” O’Blenes said. “Our fleet is aging. It’s getting to the end of their life, with respect to age as well as mileage that they’ve gone.”

The city has twelve buses, with nine on the road at any given time. The oldest was purchased back in 2003. Four of the city’s 10-year-old buses have travelled nearly 750,000 kilometres.

Dixon said that last year, the territory took part in a consultation process with communities and First Nations to determine what their infrastructure priorities were.

“Because of that work, we were able to very rapidly come up with a list of eligible projects for this new fund and apply to the federal government and seek this agreement and sign it,” he said.

Contact Rhiannon Russell at

rhiannon.russell@yukon-news.com

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