Charlottetown mayor says delivery of federal dollars critical

Dave Stewart
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, poses with Minister of Finance Bill Morneau as he arrives to table the budget on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in Ottawa.

Almost April but no process yet to submit applications

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee says all that federal infrastructure money needs to move — and move very soon.

Lee said Tuesday night he's happy to hear the Justin Trudeau government plans to spent $2.7 billion on green infrastructure, such as water treatment plants and social infrastructure like seniors homes and public transit.

But municipalities need that money soon if work is to happen this year.

"My main concern at this point is timing,'' Lee said. "We're almost to the end of March and they haven't even set up the process where you can submit applications yet.''

Government then has to go through an approval process before any of the engineering work begins.

Charlottetown has plans for the first batch of infrastructure money — the new water supply project, the final phase of work that will completely separate all the storm water from the sanitary water by constructing pipes for each and the first phase of a major roundabout project for the Belvedere Esso intersection.

"I am concerned that, quite likely, we could miss the 2016 construction season.''

There are also questions about what qualifies for infrastructure money. With past programs, for example, improvements to recreation facilities weren't eligible.

The City of Charlottetown also wants to build a new centrally-located fire station to replace Station 2 in Sherwood, but that didn't qualify either under the old program.

The federal government is also spending a lot less than it said it would during last year's election campaign — $2.7 billion compared to the $5 billion figure used in the campaign.

Still, Lee said there was a lot to like in the budget.

He's pleased to see a youth employment strategy to help 125,000 young people find a job.

"Every sector of the province needs to look at what the demographics of this province are going to be 10 years from now. A lot of people are exiting the workforce (and) we need to find a way to keep the young men and women in this province so we can move forward.''

My main concern at this point is timing. Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee

Lee isn't thrilled to hear the two-zone approach for employment insurance hasn't been changed yet. The current system splits P.E.I. into two zones for EI, Charlottetown and everyone else.

"It is not complicated. All they have to do is reverse the decision the Harper government made, and that's what the Liberal party said it would do when this change happened. Another delay of a year or two years is really unfortunate.''

And, Lee gives thumbs up to the decision to re-open the Veterans Affairs Canada district office in Charlottetown.

"A reflection of this country is how we treat our veterans.''

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Sherwood

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