Premier Kathleen Wynne was in Stratford along with Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal yesterday to announce how the Ontario government is going to provide small, rural and northern municipalities with stable, annual funding needed to build and repair essential core infrastructure.
The new Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund is to provide $100 million in annual funding for essential road, bridge, water and wastewater projects. Recognizing the different infrastructure and fiscal needs and challenges of small, rural and northern municipalities, half of the available funding will be allocated annually, while the other half will be distributed via an application-based process with grants expected to be awarded in early 2015. To be eligible to apply for these funds, municipalities must have a population less than 100,000 as of the 2011 census.
The announcement was applauded by the Consulting Engineers of Ontario. “It’s encouraging to see the province has built flexibility into this process,” said Barry Steinberg, CEO of Consulting Engineers of Ontario. “It recognizes the inherent depth of planning and coordination necessary for successful economic development. If communities can have a say and be part of the funding process, they will be more active in their strategic asset planning. Local leaders know what their communities need in terms of infrastructure refurbishment and new construction to grow and prosper. The province supporting these needs is what translates in to more jobs and better infrastructure.”
Infrastructure funding for small communities supports the province’s plan to invest more than $130 billion in public infrastructure over the next 10 years. Also to play a key role is the Small Communities Fund. Ontario municipalities can now propose infrastructure projects to be considered by this fund. The jointly funded program will see both Ontario and Ottawa each provide $272 million for these projects.