Yukon communities and First Nations have collectively spent or set aside close to $3 million from the federal Gas Tax Fund in the 2018-19 fiscal year to finance 20 infrastructure-improvement projects across the territory, federal and territorial officials said Mar. 5.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and the Yukon’s minister of community services, John Streicker, told media at a press conference that communities and First Nations have used or set aside a total of $2.79 million on nine completed projects and 11 newly-approved ones.
The projects include upgrades to the Tagish and Deep Creek water treatment plant, upgrades to Champagne and Aishihik First Nations’ potlatch house, reviewing and updating Teslin’s decade-old official community plan, and a full cleaning of the Carmacks recreation centre’s ventilation system.
“Those don’t sound exciting off the top, but they’re obviously important to everyone’s life — if you at home today (and) any of the waterworks in your bathroom didn’t work, you’d know pretty quickly,” Bagnell said.
“As infrastructure projects go, these projects are not big-ticket items. They’re not the sexy things, they’re the essential things, they are the important things,” he said. “They have an impact on the quality of life for Yukoners that is significant.”
The money isn’t new. The federal government has been allocating a certain amount from the fund to municipalities and communities every year since 2014. In the Yukon, the cash is distributed via the territorial government; the territory was given a total of $16.1 million for 2018-19, with eight communities, 14 First Nations and unincorporated communities to receive a pre-set amount.
Communities and First Nations can spend the money on 18 different categories of projects. They’re also allowed to combine their allocations for joint projects, or save the money they receive for spending at a later date.
A number of other projects are also going through the Gas Tax Fund’s approval process.
Bagnell and Streicker were joined at the press conference by three Yukon mayors — Whitehorse’s Dan Curtis, Teslin’s Gord Curran and Carmacks’s Lee Bodie, who all said the fund is crucial for getting projects done since Yukon municipalities only have small tax bases to draw on.
“I’ve said this on many occasions, but I wouldn’t want to be the mayor of Whitehorse without (the) Gas Tax, and that sounds funny but I really mean that,” Curtis told media, explaining that it would simply be “too hard” to get essential work — upgrading recreation centres, repairing roads, building new municipal structures — done without it.
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