Yukon communities would benefit from a guaranteed base level of federal infrastructure funding, says the the president of the Association of Yukon Communities.
Diana Rogerson was in Ottawa last week as part of a delegation led by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
They were there to talk to federal officials about the second phase of Canada’s $60-billion infrastructure spending plan.
Nearly $12 billion has already been spent during phase one of the new plan. Details outlining how to qualifiy for part of the remaining $48 billion over the next 10 years haven’t been made public yet. Those are expected by the 2017 budget.
“What we’re pushing for is consultation through the design process so that small communities and rural communities across Canada, such as the communities in the Yukon, are assured that they’re going to get some significant infrastructure dollars,” Rogerson said.
Rogerson, who is also a member of the federation’s board of directors, said the municipalities are hoping for a set base level of funding, similar to the way Canada’s gas tax is handed out, instead of having to apply to have individual projects funded.
“It allows you to plan ahead. Especially up in the northern communities where the building season is so short,” she said.
“If we don’t know from one year to the next what amount of money we’re going to be allocated for infrastructure projects, it’s really hard for us to plan.”
Provinces are currently pushing to have the federal money cover half of the cost of new projects.
At one of last week’s meetings, the federal minister of infrastructure and communities, Amarjeet Sohi, confirmed the territories will continue to have 75 per cent of their costs covered by the federal government, Rogerson said.
“Our communities simply don’t have any money. Right now we are fortunate that the territorial government kicks in the other 25 per cent for infrastructure projects.”
Whatever model is chosen for handing out the infrastructure money, it will likely still get channelled though the territorial government, Rogerson said. It’s important for the territory to listen to the municipalities’ priorities, she said.
Traditionally Yukon communities list their infrastructure priorities for the Department of Community Services. The territorial government then takes some of those and lobbies the federal government for money, Rogerson said.
Some communities feel like their priorities haven’t been heard, she said.
“Certainly if you were to poll the communities there would be some that would say that the list of projects that they’ve assigned priority to have not always been recognized as such by the territorial government.”
Rogerson wouldn’t give any specific examples.
She said the communities are prepared to sit down with the new community services minister, when one is chosen, to talk about priorities.
The territory has already benefited from phase one of the federal government’s infrastructure plan.
More than $52 million has been approved for the Yukon as part of that phase. The money is going to 22 different projects across the territory.
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