Mayor Naheed Nenshi is worried it could take a long time before any money from the federal government’s new infrastructure fund trickles down to Calgary.
Almost a year after the $14-billion Building Canada Fund program was first announced, Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally specified how the money will be doled out when it starts flowing on March 31.
Applications must include the possibility of being a public-private partnership, and the money will be funnelled through provincial and territorial governments — not given directly to cities.
Alberta is expected to get about $942 million of that money.
Nenshi said he’s pleased Ottawa continues to be committed to building infrastructure in municipalities.
He said Calgary will apply for about $120 million for a proposed dedicated busway to the southeast part of the city. But he isn’t expecting a cheque any time soon.
P3 projects over $100 million will have to undergo a screening to ensure taxpayers get their money's worth but the additional step could take between six and 18 months.
“The challenge is that we'll have to go through that P3 screen and if our experience with P3 Canada is any indication, that can take a really long time,” Nenshi said.
'These criteria were developed without any consultation with municipalities whatsoever' - Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi
“In addition now, the money has to flow through the province. And who knows what the province's priorities are. Certainly, shall we say, they have their own interesting way of determining what to spend money on.”
“These criteria were developed without any consultation with municipalities whatsoever,” Nenshi said.
The 10-year fund includes two major components: $4 billion for projects of national importance and $10 billion for provincial and territorial infrastructure projects.
Under the $4 billion component, funding will not be allocated to provinces and territories but "will be determined by project merit, guided by federal priorities."
Out of the $10 billion fund, $9 billion will be directed to national and regional projects and $1 billion set aside exclusively for projects in small communities with under 100,000 residents.
Under the $10 billion component, the provinces and territories "will receive a base amount of $250 million plus a per capita allocation" over 10 years.
Nenshi said it’s also a problem for Calgary that the federal government has decided to exclude sports, recreation and cultural facilities from the infrastructure fund.
“We have several billion dollars of unfunded community infrastructure, and it seems very arbitrary to remove that,” he said.
Nenshi and other big city mayors will meet in Ottawa later this month at which time he said he hopes the rules will be further clarified.