On the heels of the Budget released two days ago, we’ve received questions from our members related to how the different funding envelopes will be rolled out and will my municipality be eligible.

What this signals is a municipal readiness to invest and an eagerness to get moving.  But that’s not a surprise.  There are many different types of local needs – members’ asset management work has helped inform our input.  In addition, we’ve offered a solid description of Ontario’s municipal government structure, community size (smallest to largest) and the nature of local fiscal and other capacity.

We know that the amount of repair, replacement and new infrastructure is significant. In Ontario alone, we could consume the entire federal policy commitment of $60 billion new dollars over 10 years in the three areas of social infrastructure, ‘green’ infrastructure and transit.  So yes, municipal government’s pens are at the ready.

A bit of patience will be needed for the coming days as particulars unfold.  However, the federal government’s message is clear - there are immediate needs and it wants to make funds work in the near term (Phase 1).  

Here are a few points that we need to appreciate as we await further program information for Phase 1:

  1. The federal government sees municipal governments as the beneficiaries of its funding, not the provinces or territories.  For the three funds, Phase 1 is $11.9 billion. So in essence, our desire for a municipal government ‘carve out’ has been achieved.
  2. The Federal Gas Tax Fund will be indexed this year, on schedule.  AMO, as administrator should receive confirmation of the 2016 amount next month and then advise municipal governments of their allocations.
  3. The BCF’s Provincial Territorial Infrastructure Component (PTIC) did not see much of its $9 billon funds flow so there is to be a renewed focus to accelerating spending in concert with provinces and territories to get projects underway.
  4. Any remaining uncommitted funds from older federal infrastructure programs will be transferred to municipal governments through the Gas Tax Fund in 2016-17 to quickly support priority infrastructure assets
  5. The new Transit Fund is the most developed in terms of program roll out, building on the well documented asset needs and previous program allocations based on ridership.  Ontario’s portion of the $3.4 billion is $1.48 billion.
  6. Affordable Housing will have its own targeted fund of $1.5 billion within the new Social Infrastructure Fund. This is incredibly important since Ontario municipal governments are responsible for 256,000 social housing units and much of it was given to us in poor shape in the 90s.
  7. $168.2 million over two years is also proposed for investments in cultural and recreational infrastructure starting this year.
  8. Municipal railway grade crossing improvements will be supported by $143 million over three years.
There are other commitments in the budget but these highlight the commitment of the federal government to municipal infrastructure. Transferring any annual unspent funding to the gas tax program so that it can continue to help communities is unprecedented. In the past, unspent funds usually only benefitted the federal Treasury.  

The budget brings more to municipal governments and their infrastructure gap.  We appreciate the federal open door approach and we are ready to go to the table to talk about Phase 2’s longer term funding programs as the government desires to announce this next year.  There is a lot to unfold and AMO’s commitment is to help members stay on top latest developments.

Gary McNamara