Halifax could get extra $26M from Ottawa in proposed gas tax fund top-up
'It would allow us to deal with the impacts of COVID,' says Halifax mayor
The Halifax Regional Municipality could see an additional $26 million from the federal government this year, if Ottawa's proposal for a one-time cash injection into the gas tax fund is passed.
On Thursday, the government proposed investing $2.2 billion in the federal fund, on top of the initial $2.2-billion allocation announced in June 2020.
"We get about $26 million a year from these revenues, which come directly from the federal government. So they're huge for us. And to double that is going to have a big impact," said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.
The fund includes 18 different project categories from transit and roads to wastewater and sport infrastructure. Communities can use the funds for projects, bank them for later use, or pool the money with other communities for shared infrastructure projects.
"It gives us a great deal of flexibility to identify those needs that we have .… It would allow us to deal with the impacts of COVID," Savage said.
"It may also help us with a ton of other things from active transportation to parks to whatever we determine to be most important."
An increase to the fund is something Savage said the Big City Mayors' Caucus with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been asking for because it's the best way to get money directly to municipalities.
Rebranding the 'gas tax'
The federal Finance Department said in a news release the government is also proposing to rename the "outdated" gas tax fund as the Canada community-building fund to better reflect the program.
The initial name was based on the idea that funding would come from the revenues off taxation on gasoline with a percentage going to municipalities, which Savage said is long gone.
"Now the money just comes into our general operating fund and we determine what we're going to use it for," he said.
The fund is paid out in two instalments, one in the spring and one in the fall. Savage said if the proposal goes ahead, he expects the city will see the cash this upcoming fiscal year.
with files from Pam Berman