Budget promises millions more for Phoenix fix

The federal budget unveiled Tuesday contains new money to fix and eventually replace the federal government payroll system, and reveals plans to build new crossings across the Ottawa River.

Federal government also plans to replace Alexandra Bridge and build a 6th Ottawa-Gatineau crossing

Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada block Laurier Avenue in downtown Ottawa on Feb. 28, the three-year anniversary of the ill-fated Phoenix payroll system's launch. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The federal budget unveiled Tuesday contains new money to fix and eventually replace the federal government payroll system, and reveals plans to build new crossings across the Ottawa River.

Here are some of the highlights.

More money for Phoenix fix

The government is setting aside $553 million between now and April 2022 — $374 million by April 2020 — to fix the failed Phoenix pay system, which has improperly paid tens of thousands of public servants since its launch in February 2016.

That will bring the total dedicated to fixing Phoenix to $1.5 billion.

The budget contains $13.7 million over the next five years to help make federal government workplaces more accessible, and devotes $6.3 million to reduce food waste in federal government offices, also over the next five years.

New bridges in Ottawa's future

The budget mentions two new crossings over the Ottawa River between the capital and Gatineau, but doesn't say when or, in one case, where.

It singles out the 118-year-old Alexandra Bridge for replacement, but doesn't contain money for the cost of the project.

The federal government is also calling for a sixth crossing in the capital region, part of a long-term interprovincial crossing plan. 

The work will be led and mostly financed by the National Capital Commission, along with both provincial governments and the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau. 

Earlier plans for a new crossing at Kettle Island in Ottawa's east end faltered.

The budget also sets aside $80.4 million over the next 10 years for the maintenance and improvement of other crossings in the National Capital Region.

Funding for housing, farmers

Here are some other items that could affect our region.

  • An extra $10 billion to extend a loan program aimed at encouraging lower-cost rental housing construction until 2028 is expected to add 42,500 units across the country. The budget singles out Kingston, Ont., which has some of Ontario's lowest rental vacancy rates, as an area that could benefit.
  • Communities can vie for the new Housing Supply Challenge, a $300-million pot of money set aside to reward communities that find "new ways to break down barriers that limit the creation of new housing."
  • Cities asking for help to house asylum seekers could find relief from a $1.18-billion, five-year fund aimed at processing claims more efficiently.
  • Dairy, poultry and egg farmers could qualify for the up to $3.9 billion in assistance for their industries designed to offset the impact of various trade deals.
  • Money dedicated to helping people from Nunavut access health care closer to home, such as $220 million over five years for Inuit child care, could mean fewer people travelling from the North to Ottawa to access those services.

The budget also highlights a previously announced $70.8-million low-cost loan to Claridge Homes to build a 27-storey, ecologically friendly and accessible rental building at Gloucester and Metcalfe streets in downtown Ottawa.

The building will include 200 rental units that will be leased below market rates.


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