Despite municipalities having the most immediate and direct impact on our lives, the structure of our Constitution severely limits their autonomy, including access to revenues.
Additionally, the impacts of climate change are having negative impacts on our infrastructure and it is left to our municipalities to cover and address those demands. I know our local governments and administrations have worked incredibly hard to secure grants and cost-sharing opportunities on a number of projects in the area but more support can be offered from the federal government that provides municipalities with a flow of predictable and reliable funding.
As MP, I would support the ongoing allocation of 1% of the GST to infrastructure projects and double the amount of what is presently called the Gas Tax Fund (with a name change to the Municipal Fund to better reflect its purpose). I would also propose making changes to the Canada Infrastructure Bank to reduce interest rates to municipalities for loans on infrastructure projects and direct that the Canada Infrastructure Bank invest in climate-proofing essential infrastructure, such as protecting waste water systems from flooding.
These initiatives would provide greater funding security and the ability for municipalities to plan for long-term infrastructure development.
The Green Party also wants to give municipalities a stronger voice. Through developing a Council of Canadian Governments, we aspire to give municipalities a seat at the table to inform and share in the decision-making process. This Council will include Indigenous, federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal that represents both urban and rural populations.
With six federal candidates vying for the MP seat in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding, and no community forum in the works for Trail this time around, the Trail Times decided to ask all six politicians the same question and publish their replies.
Choosing “what to ask” went around the newsroom a few times. Ultimately, the subject landed on what matters to every taxpaying citizen here and beyond, no matter what party is voted into power Oct. 21.
That issue being, of course, “taxes.” Moreover, what will the “win” mean for the taxpayer’s pocketbook?
Narrowing the subject of “taxes” down to the local front is where the word “infrastructure” comes in. Although “infrastructure” doesn’t immediately conjure up the idea of particularly charming conversation, the subject is especially relevant for smaller B.C. communities dealing with aging core services and a limited tax base on the hook to pay for very costly upgrades.
The most immediate example is the $52-million upgrade needed for the regional sewer treatment plant that services Rossland, Warfield and Trail. With well over $1 million already invested into getting the project closer to “shelf ready,” the multi-million dollar job was recently denied for federal/provincial funding from a key source called the “Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program,” or ICIP.
The reason given was “the program received significantly more applications than could be funded.”
Obviously, a $52m project cannot go ahead without significant financial backing from government. As well, the upgrade is not a “frill” job – provincial and federal regulations now require a minimum of secondary treatment for wastewater treatment plants discharging into the environment. The regional facility near the mall, called the Columbia Pollution Control Centre, is a primary treatment plant that was built in the 1970s.
Further, the federal government cut their ICIP cost-sharing portion from 50 per cent to 40 per cent last year. That means municipal taxpayers must cover another 10 per cent of costs if their projects are approved.
This is why the Trail Times is asking, “If elected as our MP, how will you help taxpayers in Trail and the Greater Area fill this funding gap?”
Replies have not been edited.