More questions than answers over federal infrastructure dollars

Dave Stewart
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Ministers Robert Vessey, left, and Wes Sheridan walk to Province House.

Transportation minister says talks with Ottawa ongoing, expects to have agreement signed within next two months

The federal government is now accepting applications for infrastructure spending but the City of Charlottetown has more questions than answers.

Donna Waddell, director of corporate services with the capital city, said the federal government needs to tell municipalities what the criteria for the program is.

“We’re waiting for more information. They seem to have made some changes but we need to have some definitions,’’ Waddell said.

Prince Edward Island will get $440 million over the next 10 years but the city, even the provincial government, is still looking for details of how that will roll out — even though the program launched last week.

One of the changes Charlottetown is concerned about is that the federal government appears to be removing the ability by municipalities to stack gas tax funding. In the past, municipalities could use what they got in gas tax money as a down payment on projects.

“They are removing that stackability,’’ she said.

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey said the province is still negotiating with Ottawa on the criteria and no final decisions on gas tax funding have been made.

“As of now I would have to say that is the way it is but I can’t answer for sure,’’ Vessey said following question period in the legislature on Thursday.

Waddell said they’re also looking for clarification on the definition of ‘major roads’ when it comes to infrastructure dollars. In other words, a street like St. Peter’s Road might qualify for funding while Queen Street wouldn’t.

Vessey said it’s all part of the ongoing negotiations, which he estimates will take six to eight weeks to finalize. He knows Island municipalities want answers.

“They’re anxious to get some funding so they can do things in their communities but until we have an agreement signed our hands are tied.’’

Vessey said it’s important to note that it is a 10-year program and any money not used in one year carries into the next year.

“We want to be careful that we get the agreement right the first time because it’s going to be with us for 10 years.’’

The federal government is drawing fire for backloading the program. Government is investing $210 million to the provinces in 2014-15 and in 2015-16 but funding increases in 2016-17, after the next federal election.

The new fund doesn’t get back to providing the same level of funding as the old program until 2019-20, when Ottawa will invest $2 billion.

Charlottetown has two big projects that depend on infrastructure funding — the sanitary/storm water separation project and the new water source.

The province’s big-ticket item for the money is a third electricity cable to the mainland.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Geographic location: Ottawa, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Queen Street

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  • Squirrel
    April 04, 2014 - 08:30

    First the Province will its 40 % or so then the City of Ch'town gets its 20 % or so, then S'Side will want same as Ch'Town & whatever is left over will be divided among the Communities. It was takes months to divvy it up, oh, the all important photo-op will add a month to it. You would think we were in the jungle with a carcass !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!