PEI

Federal infrastructure funding: 'Charlottetown's relying on it' to come through

P.E.I.'s two biggest cities are already talking about how they'd like to spend a likely increase in federal infrastructure funding — but while Charlottetown is counting on the money, Summerside says it's not.

'If we don't get the capital funding this year then those projects will not be proceeding'

Summerside hopes to use some of the money to install solar panels on Credit Union Place.

P.E.I.'s two biggest cities are already talking about how they'd like to spend a likely increase in federal infrastructure funding — but while Charlottetown is counting on the money, Summerside says it's not. 

Charlottetown's relying on it. I think every municipality across the country is quite honestly.— Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during last fall's election campaign to pump an additional $60 billion over 10 years into infrastructure projects.  

Although less than half that money was earmarked to flow during the Liberals' first mandate, there has been talk the government is looking at moving up the spending schedule, pushing the money out faster in response to worsening economic conditions.

In January, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said details will have to await his budget, expected in mid to late March.

Charlottetown projects contingent on funding

Charlottetown indicated in its capital budget released this week that it's already counting on $20 million in federal funding for capital projects, including completing water infrastructure, buying new transit buses and completing a new roundabout at Belvedere Avenue and St. Peters Road. 

"They're all contingent upon the infrastructure program coming through," Mayor Clifford Lee said. 

"The message right now is there's some uncertainty as to how the program's going to work. There's rumours out there in the community."

He said the funding formula, which normally has been one-third federal, one-third provincial and one-third municipal, may be different this time. 

"If we don't get the capital funding this year, then those projects will not be proceeding. It's as simple as that ... The taxpayer of Charlottetown simply couldn't afford to pay 100 per cent of those types of costs," he said.

"Charlottetown's relying on it. I think every municipality across the country is quite honestly." 

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee is hoping to complete water infrastructure work. (CBC)

Summerside's projects will go ahead

Although Summerside is eager to hear about the new money, the city isn't counting on it and hasn't included it in the latest budget, released this week. 

"There's going to be monies available for underground work, which we will clearly be looking to access," said Summerside Mayor Bill Martin.

"Second pool of monies on renewable energy. We're going to be all over that given the fact that we own our own utility, we own our own wind farm and we've got all kinds of plans to move with solar." 

Summerside would like to put $1.5 million in solar panels on Credit Union Place with some of the federal funding.

Groups in Summerside would also be tapping into money for social housing, Martin added.

Summerside mayor Bill Martin says 'the devil is in the details and we don't know the details' in the federal budget yet. (CBC)

'Sooner rather than later' 

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey couldn't reveal any details or talk about exact timing, but his talk was positive today in an interview with CBC News.

"It will be sooner rather than later, so there will undoubtedly be an emphasis on projects that are shovel-ready, and there will be a huge emphasis on getting the money out the door as quickly as possible so as not to lose the construction season," said Casey.

"So I don't think it's unreasonable to expect we'll see the money flowing in the first half of this year.

"What the economy needs is to get people working now."

Building a new waste water management system in Charlottetown and sourcing new water clearly falls under the federal government's plan for green infrastructure, said Casey. 

Replacing an aging bus fleet and affordable housing and recreational facilities fits into other federal priorities of improving public transit and social infrastructure. 

"I don't think there's any question that Charlottetown in particular and Prince Edward Island in general will have no trouble fitting quite neatly into the categories that are priority areas," he said. 

With files from Krystalle Ramlakhan

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