Feds to use municipality fund to spend out of recession

When the federal budget is announced on January 27, the Yukon shouldn’t expect any new infrastructure money.

When the federal budget is announced on January 27, the Yukon shouldn’t expect any new infrastructure money.

Instead the federal and territorial governments are revamping the $175 million Building Canada fund promised for the Yukon on March 17 2008, said Infrastructure Minister John Baird.

That money was meant to be spent over seven years — from 2007 until 2014 — on municipal infrastructure projects, but the spending could be accelerated in an effort to blunt the economic downturn.

“We recognize that, in these economic times, infrastructure spending can be an important shot in the arm for the Canadian economy,” said Baird.

He met with delegations from all three northern territories separately before holding a collective two-hour meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday.

The Nunavut and Northwest Territories delegations included their respective premiers, Eva Aariak and Floyd Roland, as well as ministers in charge of infrastructure.

Yukon Minister of Community Services Archie Lang was the only Yukon politician present.

“We had a detailed discussion with the Yukon with respect to a specific list of projects and they’re going to go back and (they’re) doing their consultations with First Nations and with municipalities,” said Baird.

But Baird wouldn’t give any more details.

“I’m not going to make an announcement for the minister,” he said.

Asked if the spending would be for roads or hydro-power facilities, the minister simply replied “All of the above.”

“I won’t pre-emptively (announce Minister Lang’s) consultations,” said Baird, “I think he’s keen to move as quickly as possible.”

Infrastructure money promised by the former federal Liberal government that still hasn’t made it to the Yukon is also being examined, he said.

Specifically, the territorial and federal leaders examined how they could reduce bureaucratic oversight with regards to the Building Canada fund, said Baird.

Canada pays 75 per cent of any Building Canada-funded projects while the territories foot 25 per cent of the bill, he said.

Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak brought forward a specific list of projects for her territory, but remained uncommitted until her government can fully define its priorities, said Baird.

“The Nunavut premier and her government are brand spanking new and they will be working over the next five or six weeks establishing their priorities,” he said.

The meeting is the fourth in a series of country-wide consultations for the infrastructure minister.

“This was absolutely key as we move forward to the first minister’s meeting on January 16 and the budget on January 27 as far as cutting through that red tape and starting infrastructure spending,” he said.

Baird went to Vancouver to discuss how to accelerate infrastructure spending with western provinces and then went to Halifax to discuss the same with Atlantic ministers.

He also went to Toronto to speak with his Ontario counterparts.

But when it came to the North, the territories had to travel to Ottawa to have their views heard.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.