United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council got an update on federal infrastructure funding at the March 13 committee of the whole meeting.
Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Francis Drouin was at the meeting and explained that part of the difficulty in ensuring funds are available for the year ahead is because of Premier Doug Ford’s government in Ontario.
Under an agreement reached between the federal government and the previous Liberal government in Ontario, the federal government would provide approximately $25 million and the provincial government would provide more than $10.3 million.
According to Drouin, the Ford government placed a moratorium on new spending while it reviewed plans made by the previous government which has slowed down the ability for municipalities to access infrastructure funding under the federal-provincial agreement.
The MP did say that the province has recently opened a grant application intake for road and bridge projects, but there is still no intake process for so-called green infrastructure which includes water and sewage projects, or social infrastructure like arenas and community centres.
“They (municipalities) all have projects they’ve had to put on hold,” said Drouin.
Previously, municipalities wanting to make use of the federal-provincial infrastructure program had to pay for one-third of the cost of the projects.
Drouin said municipal leaders told the government that formula did not work, so it was changed to better assist small municipalities.
The federal-provincial program will now cover up to 60 per cent of the eligible expenses for water, sewer, and road projects in municipalities with a population under 5,000.
The only municipalities in Prescott-Russell with populations under 5,000 are East Hawkesbury and Casselman.
Warden Robert Kirby, who is also Mayor of East Hawkesbury, called Drouin’s update good news, even if changes were being announced later than hoped for.
The UCPR has various capital infrastructure projects planned for 2019. More than $3 million is slated for road projects, but the budget documents do not specify which roads are part of that plan.