$15M Ontario infrastructure plan makes communities compete for funding

Guelph city councillor Phil Allt is calling for a re-examination of how cities are funded after the provincial government announced cities can apply for Ontario's new $15 million dollar a year Connecting Links infrastructure program as early as next.

Ontario infrastructure fund calls into question city funding model

Liberal Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announces that 77 Ontario communities are now eligible to apply and compete for a $15 million dollar a year fund to help repair roads and bridges that connect 77 Ontario communities with provincial highways and border crossings. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Guelph city councillor Phil Allt is calling for a re-examination of how cities are funded after the provincial government announced communities can apply as early as next week for infrastructure money from Ontario's new Connecting Links program.

The $15 million a year fund is aimed at helping communities across Ontario pay for repairs to the 352 kilometres of roads and 70 bridges that connect towns and cities to provincial highways or border crossings. 

Connecting Links is part of a larger $130 billion effort from the Liberal government at Queen's Park to refurbish and modernize Ontario's aging road and transit network over the next decade. 

I think that the notion that cities should compete is one that really is an anathema to Canada. We're all in this together.- Guelph city councillor Phil Allt

Liberal Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was at Guelph City Hall Tuesday to announce the 77 communities eligible for the Connecting Links program can begin applying for the money as early as November 19. 

"Municipalities can use these new funds for a range of capital projects, such as bridge replacement, pavement rehabilitation and storm and sewer upgrades," he told the crowd of mostly city politicians and bureaucrats.

"These are the everyday roads that people rely on to get to work or to school and then back home again safely," he said. "Ensuring that these are in a state of good repair is crucial to the well-being of the traveling public and the economy of the province."  

77 communities vie for $15M

Among those at the announcement was Guelph city councillor Phil Allt, who isn't a fan of the math: 77 communities are eligible to apply for the fund, but the province hasn't yet announced how the application process works or what the judging criteria would be. 

"The $15 million itself divided amongst 77 communities I think is a bit concerning," he said, noting that if each community was awarded funding, the average would be $194,000 per community, which wouldn't buy much roadwork.

While Allt said that cities need all the money they can get to help bankroll repairs to their crumbling roads and bridges, they shouldn't have to engage in a bureaucratic jousting match for what little money seems to exist. 

"We're all in this together," Guelph city councillor Phil Allt says. "Communities should not have to compete [for funding] in fact, communities should be dealt with in a manner similar to the provinces." (Phil Allt)

"I think that the notion that cities should compete is one that really is an anathema to Canada," he said. "We're all in this together. 

"Communities should not have to compete. In fact, communities should be dealt with similar to the provinces and we need to revisit where the communities are in the constitution."  

Allt noted that Toronto, which is considered by many to be one of the economic powerhouses of the country is "third rate" when it comes to getting grants from provincial and federal governments and often can't get enough money to pay for the litany of repairs needed for its vast and often crumbling urban infrastructure. 

"They should be getting a much greater ear from both the province and from the federal government and should be able to access funds in a manner similar to PEI, which, I think, is about one-tenth the population of Toronto."  


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