The mayors of Alberta’s two largest cities are seeking more details on the federal Building Canada Fund that could provide much-needed money for infrastructure.
The fund, which will offer cities $14 billion in funding over 10 years, was announced last year but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty offered few additional details when the 2014-15 federal budget was released Tuesday.
Instead, cities will learn more by March 31, which frustrates Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
“If you're only announcing the program at the end of March … you're right into the construction season,” Nenshi said.
“So it's really, really important that the federal government announce the criteria now so that particularly smaller municipalities can make preparations and make sure that they haven't already lost a season.
“For many municipalities, it may in fact be too late.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson was pleased to hear that the federal government has renewed its commitment to the fund, which is where the city hopes to get money for the southeast LRT expansion.
But, like Nenshi, he is still looking for more details.
“We’re still looking for specific parameters in that fund so that we can understand what kinds of projects would be eligible, more importantly when the cash will start flowing and how municipalities are going to have a say in the allocation of those funds.”
However, Iveson says local Conservative MPs have told him that LRT expansion would likely be eligible.
Both Nenshi and Iveson are concerned that the federal government is providing no new funding for social and affordable housing.
“A very large number of those programs are expiring as we speak and that runs the risk of hundreds of thousands of housing units currently available no longer being available,” Nenshi said.
Canada West Foundation president Dylan Jones says the federal government is missing an opportunity to invest more in job creation.
"I don’t think the federal government should be proud of a boring budget and I don’t think Canadians should be satisfied with an economy that continues to have high unemployment and huge underlying productivity challenges," he said.
"We have an aging population. We have many citizens who are about to retire. We are going to have to pay to support those people well and we aren’t going to get there with budgets that are boring.”