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Federal government doubling Charlottetown’s portion of the gas tax fund

Charlottetown Coun. Terry Bernard, left, chairman of public works, urban beautification and the youth advisory committee, says travelling to various conferences may cost the city money but they are invaluable tools for municipal politicians. Also pictured is Deputy Mayor Mike Duffy.
Charlottetown Coun. Terry Bernard, left, and Coun. Mike Duffy. - Dave Stewart

The City of Charlottetown is getting an unexpected gift of $3.3 million from the federal government.

Ottawa announced in its budget this year a doubling of the $2.2 billion gas tax fund.

Thus, most municipalities in Canada are expected to get about double their usual portion of the fund for this year only.

Charlottetown received $3.3 million in the past so it will be getting a total of $6.6 million this year.

Coun. Terry Bernard, chairman of the city’s finance committee, said the extra $3.3 million was accounted for in Charlottetown’s 2019-20 budget last month.

“We knew about it. We knew it was coming down the pike,’’ Bernard said.

As for how the money will be spent, Bernard said the city has a number of applications into the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) so the extra money the city received in gas tax funding could be used to prop up its share of projects that are completed with municipal, provincial and federal funding.

“Until we know what’s being approved this money has been set aside.’’

There is no shortage of where the money could be spent.

The city has plans to upgrade its pollution control plant on Riverside Drive, a project that would cost $6 million. The city’s portion of the work would be $1.7 million.

A new fire hall has also been in the works for years. The city is still in the design phase for that so it’s unclear how much money would be needed.

And, there is the ongoing issue of the need to replace two community rinks, Simmons and Cody Banks.

Right now, the city is in the process of finding out whether to replace those rinks with a structure that would encompass two ice pads under one roof or build a much larger multi-purpose facility.

A multi-purpose facility would cost anywhere from $60-$80 million. Even though the federal government said earlier this year that such a project wouldn’t be eligible for ICIP funding, the city is hoping the feds have a change of heart. A resolution was passed at the recent Atlantic Mayors Congress in Halifax supporting Charlottetown’s request in this regard.

Bernard said the city will either replace Cody Banks and Simmons with a simple two-pad facility or go the multi-purpose route which would include two ice surfaces plus other amenities, it all depends on funding.

To those who would suggest the city use the money on affordable housing, Bernard said housing is a provincial responsibility. The city’s contribution comes in the form of tax breaks.

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