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Federal funding for municipal infrastructure set to expire in 2014, B.C. cities, towns told

Sep 26 2012

Billions of dollars in federal funding programs for roads, bridges and sewers are set to expire in 2014 with no deal yet for replacement, Karen Leibovici, Federation of Canadian Municipalities president, told British Columbia's municipal leaders.

"That's one-third of the total funding we get from Ottawa," Leibovici told delegates to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

"If a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached to replace these expiring programs, the potential loss of funding will deliver a huge body blow to local governments across Canada that are already struggling to keep up with a crippling infrastructure deficit."

Both the B.C. and federal groups, along with provincial governments, have been working to ensure existing programs are not only maintained but enhanced, Leibovici said.

The federal government has committed in its 2011 and 2012 budgets to developing a new long-term infrastructure plan but municipalities cannot afford to miss the 2014 building season.

"That basically means it has to be in budget 2013 - next year," said Leibovici, an Edmonton city councillor.

The federal group has launched Target 2014 - a campaign calling on the government to ensure that the new long-term plan is fully in place before the federal infrastructure programs expire in 2014.

A recent report card released by the federal group showed more than half of Canada's municipal roads require significant repairs and one in four wastewater plants is in need of major upgrades.

"There's a need for longterm, sustainable, predictable, flexible funding that meets the needs of local government," she said.

Leibovici said funding of infrastructure "is not an expenditure. It's a vital investment."

The estimated municipal infrastructure deficit was estimated to be $123 billion five years ago and it has grown since then, Leibovici said.

"Municipalities receive only eight cents out of every tax dollar paid in Canada ... yet we maintain, we operate and own more than 50 per cent of the country's infrastructure."

She said Ottawa's new plan should put taxes paid by Canadians back into the communities they live in; replace the $2 billion a year that has been available in the Building Canada Fund and meet new and growing challenges such as the estimated $20 billion needed to meet new federal wastewater standards.

Leibovici urged delegates to pass council resolutions endorsing Target 2014 to demonstrate the importance of federal government's initiative to develop a new long-term infrastructure plan.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for all of us, and we can't afford more delays, more employee costs or more uncertainty."

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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