The City of Whitehorse is unable to move ahead on tendering for a number of planned infrastructure projects until the territorial government has its 2021 budget in place.
At Whitehorse city council’s Feb. 15 meeting, Coun. Dan Boyd questioned city staff about delays in upcoming infrastructure projects that were planned to be funded through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).
Under the program, approved projects receive 75 per cent of the funding from the federal government and 25 per cent from the territory.
City manager Linda Rapp confirmed the city would normally begin procuring for these projects in January or February, which is typically the best time of year to get more submissions and better pricing.
Procurement cannot begin until the projects have been approved.
That means a territorial budget needs to be in place. In previous years, the anticipated amounts for infrastructure programs are known in the fall with municipalities able to move forward with ICIP approvals for the coming year and release tender documents in January/February.
In this case, Whitehorse staff said Yukon government staff have advised the budget is needed before they can advise whether the applications have been approved. It’s now expected the applications would not be approved until April when it may be too late for construction to happen this year on some projects.
In an interview following the Feb. 15 council meeting, Rapp said it’s an issue of budget timing with the territory’s budget not anticipated until the spring.
“We haven’t run into this before,” she said.
The situation has the city looking at what projects it can prioritize with a decision made to move forward with one that was planned for ICIP funding — the Range Road lift station — now being funded from reserves and gas tax funding.
Answering Boyd earlier in the meeting, Rapp said upgrades to the waste management facility are also a priority as well as energy upgrades to the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre, which was a multi-year initiative.
Rapp noted with the Yukon potentially being considered for hosting the 2027 Canada Winter Games, if the games go ahead the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre would likely be used as a venue. Upgrades would need to be completed well ahead of the games, with trial events happening in the year leading up to the games as well as site visits ahead of those.
Boyd also cited the Hillcrest reconstruction project as “long overdue” and wondered what impact a potential territorial election in the spring might have on the ICIP funding.
Rapp responded by noting that would largely depend on what stage the process is at when an election is called.
While it appears the city will have to wait until the territorial budget is confirmed to move forward, Coun. Samson Hartland voiced his support for “anything that would provide certainty.”
Mayor Dan Curtis, who has already stated his intention to seek the Liberal nomination in the Whitehorse Centre riding for the territorial election when it is called, questioned whether the Yukon government would be willing to consider a two-year window for projects to begin once approved as that would allow the city to go to tender for some in January/February of the following year. He asked administration to look into the possibility, noting there are a number of “absolutely critical” projects that could use the funding.
The News reached out to the territory’s Department of Finance, but officials were unable to provide information by press time.
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