10/22/2007

$64 million in COMRIF top-up funding should be accessible to all rural and small urban municipalities.
Issue:  

How should $64 million in federal COMRIF top-up funding be administered? AMO’s position is that the administration of additional funds should be based on the principles of fairness, openness and transparency.

Background:  

Earlier this year, the federal government allocated an additional $200 million as a “top-up” of the national Municipal Rural Infrastructure Program (MRIF) program. In Ontario MRIF is administered as the COMRIF Program.

The share of the $200 million available for COMRIF in Ontario is $64 million. It will be matched by an additional $64 million from the province for total additional funding under the original COMRIF program of $128 million.

The COMRIF program has had three intakes based on original federal funding of approximately $298 million and provincial funding of $298 million. The third intake was $46 million from each of the federal and provincial governments. COMRIF Intake Three closed in September 2006. Many of the COMRIF Intake Three applications that did not receive COMRIF funding received provincial funding through the 2007 provincial rural infrastructure investment initiative.

AMO is concerned about the potential manner though which the $64 million “top-up” funding may be administered in Ontario. There is debate over whether there should be a new COMRIF Intake 4 or whether only those applications that did not receive funding under the September 2006 COMRIF Intake Three should be eligible for consideration.

AMO has expressed concern to the Government of Canada about the federal government’s idea of potentially limiting access to the top-up funding to unfunded COMRIF Intake Three applicants.

Many municipalities did not apply under COMRIF Intake Three because of the limited funding ($46 million) available at the time.  In addition, there has been a municipal election since Intake Three closed in September 2006, and new Councils may have different priorities than those expressed in Intake Three applications. AMO believes that a fourth Intake is a more equitable approach that would allow all COMRIF eligible municipalities to apply for the new funding and does not presuppose any council’s decision to apply or not apply. AMO has expressed to the federal government that a fourth intake could be expedited by allowing municipalities to submit updated application form prior COMRIF intake or new applications if they wish.   

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