Municipalities across the province will get $200 million over the next three years for roads, sewer systems, water treatment and other infrastructure necessities.
Steve Kent, minister of municipal and intergovernmental affairs, made a $200-million infrastructure funding announcement Tuesday at Rotary Paradise Community Centre.
— Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Steve Kent, minister of municipal and intergovernmental affairs, was cheerful Tuesday morning as he announced the funding at the Rotary Paradise Youth and Community Centre. Municipal leaders were pretty chipper, too.
The announcement is coming well ahead of the spring budget — the Department of Finance told The Telegram it doesn’t know when, exactly, the budget will be delivered because it’s not done writing it.
Because the municipal infrastructure money was announced early, municipalities will know what their slice of the pie is going to be, and they’ll be able to get construction crews to work earlier in the season.
“It’s positive that the announcement has come early, because that’s going to give us additional time,” St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said.
“I think last year it was July before we actually knew, so here we are now in March and that will give us time to plan and go to tender.”
The figure of $200 million isn’t much of a change from previous years.
In 2012, when the government announced a multiyear municipal capital works program it was a $130-million fund spread over two years — or $65 million per year. This time, the $200 million over three years equates to $66.6 million per year.
But Kent said the announcement makes it clear the government is committed to paying for municipal infrastructure projects.
“We’ve demonstrated our commitment to continued, sustainable infrastructure funding to meet the big demands that communities large and small have,” he said. “As part of the new fiscal framework, we will continue to invest in infrastructure projects that will help communities grow and be sustainable in our province.”
Churence Rogers, president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, was at Tuesday’s announcement.
He said the money will mean communities across the province can get to work on critical projects.
“For us, this morning, the big announcement is the move towards the early tendering process, which will get the tenders out the door a lot earlier and ready for the construction season,” he said.
“I think the biggest need right now is to take care of the quality of water in our municipalities,” Rogers said. “On a regular basis, we have many, many municipalities with boil-water advisories.”
The funding announcement comes against the backdrop of a much bigger conversation underway between the provincial government and municipalities over a comprehensive new regime for funding.
A reworked funding formula for towns and cities is likely a year away, at least, but New Democrat MHA George Murphy said he’d like to see more done on that.
“I would certainly be nice to see government use its imagination when it comes to finding a new funding formula for municipalities,” he said.
Murphy said he wants to see the provincial government pay property tax to municipalities for the buildings they own.
Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce, meanwhile, liked Tuesday’s announcement, but said he needs to see more information.
He said he likes the recent trend on the part of government to push for tenders to be issued earlier in the year.
“It’s good to have the tenders out early, but you need to see the details of it,” Joyce said. “The other thing is, just because they say it doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.”