Government carves out $3B to help communities with pandemic infrastructure projects
Funds will support school, long-term care facility retrofits, as well as bike and walking paths
The federal government is adjusting a $33-billion COVID-19 infrastructure program to help Canadian communities respond to the global pandemic.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced a new COVID-19 "resilience" stream during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, carving out $3.3 billion for pandemic-related projects that would not be covered under previous rules.
McKenna said the government recognizes that, with the health and economic challenges presented by COVID-19, Canadians need supports to protect their health, improve quality of life and create jobs.
Changes to the program will make it easier for projects — such as making schools and long-term care facilities safer — to qualify for funding, she said. New rules will also fund projects such as creating new bike and walking lanes, so people can get out to exercise and enjoy nature.
The money will come from existing funds.
WATCH | McKenna allocated up to $3.3 billion to help communities adapt to COVID-19:
The changes are about "[making] sure we get better outcomes in a time of COVID and show that we can adapt," McKenna said.
According to a news release, the program offers a larger federal cost share for projects, up to 80 per cent for provinces, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in provinces, and 100 per cent for remote, northern and territorial projects.
The application process will also be streamlined to get funds flowing faster.
McKenna said the government hopes to fund "shovel-ready" projects that can start up quickly.
Positive reaction from municipalities, industry group
The Canadian Association for Long Term Care reacted positively to the announcement, saying the challenges faced by the sector are structural issues that will require sustained investment and support from all levels of government.
"Canada's seniors deserve homes that are up to date with current design standards, and this funding is a good first step in ensuring that seniors can live and age with dignity," the association said in a statement.
Bill Karsten, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said the change shows the government has been listening to stakeholders. He said more flexible funding, more efficient approvals and higher federal contributions will help municipal leaders get projects out the door faster.
"Today's announcement recognizes the vital role municipalities play in keeping Canadians safe and healthy during this pandemic," said Karsten in a statement. "We are urging provinces and territories to work with municipalities as they consider whether or not to opt-in to this new funding stream — collaboration amongst all governments will be key to delivering concrete results for Canadians on the ground and essential to Canada's economic recovery."