Robert C. McLeod: Federal infrastructure programs for NWT community governments

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in the Mandate to pursue new federal funding for the enhancement of community government infrastructure. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, MACA, is working collaboratively with both the federal and community governments to fulfill that commitment through various funding programs, including the Gas Tax Agreement and the New Building Canada Plan.

Funding leveraged through these programs is helping to decrease the community public infrastructure deficit in communities across our territory.  

The Government of the Northwest Territories plays an important role in supporting NWT community governments as they access available federal funding programs.  Most federal programs require that eligible projects be cost-shared.  MACA provides $28million through the Community Public Infrastructure and has protected that funding in the budget process. Community governments can use that money to leverage funds available through federal infrastructure programs. 

The first of the federal programs I’ll refer to is the Gas Tax program.  Made permanent through federal legislation in 2012, the federal Gas Tax program will provide $15.3 million to NWT community governments in 2016-2017.  When this program was made permanent, the federal government expanded the list of eligible project types and the program became a true infrastructure program, instead of being focused on specific objectives and types of infrastructure. 

The funding available through the Gas Tax program is provided to NWT community governments through a base-plus formula approach and community governments have the flexibility to identify priority projects through their capital plan and then invest Gas Tax funding in identified projects.  Community governments will tell you that the Gas Tax program is often considered their favourite federal funding program due to the flexibility in the design of the program.

The second federal program, available to community governments until 2022, is the Small Communities Fund, or SCF, which is part of the New Build Canada Plan Provincial Territorial Infrastructure Component. 

Over the next six years, NWT community governments will have access to $38.7 million Federal money to support most types of community public infrastructure, allocated to each community using a base-plus formula approach.  Fifteen projects approved for funding under the program were announced in March 2016. The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is working with the remaining community governments to identify and obtain approval on projects for those communities.  Construction must be complete on projects approved under this program by December 2022.

Canada announced the creation of two additional funding programs in its 2016 budget: the Public Transit Fund and Clean Water and Wastewater Fund. The Public Transit Fund includes an allocation of $320,000 to support public transit infrastructure in the Northwest Territories; and the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund provides an investment in water and wastewater infrastructure of $51.7 million.  Funding available through these programs must be spent by March 2019. 

MACA is currently working with NWT community governments to identify projects for these two funding programs and will facilitate the application and approval process with Canada.  Similar to projects funded through the SCF program, projects under the Public Transit and the Clean Water and Wastewater funding programs require a minimum investment of 25% of total project cost by the community government, drawn from public infrastructure funding provided to communities by MACA or own-source revenues.

Given the short timeframe for this program, and the limited types of infrastructure that the program can be used for, MACA will issue a call for funding applications in the coming weeks and will support community governments through Canada’s application and approval process.  As with other funding programs, approval must be obtained from Canada before community governments can begin construction.

Mr. Speaker, in 2014, MACA undertook an exercise to identify the municipal funding needs for NWT community governments.  Using the information on the replacement needs for all core infrastructure in NWT communities, MACA identified an annual deficit of $38 million needed to address replacement and required upgrades to core community government infrastructure.  The good news is that the federal infrastructure programs I have been talking about will help to reduce that community government infrastructure deficit across the territory.

Applying the funding available through the federal Gas Tax program will reduce that deficit to $23 million per year.  After applying the funding available through the other three funding programs, the annual infrastructure deficit is reduced to $14 million per year over the next ten years. Although there is still a gap to be addressed, the impact of federal infrastructure funding is significant. 

On behalf of all NWT community governments and the Government of the Northwest Territories, we wish to acknowledge the significant contribution of the federal government towards community infrastructure in the North which helps to support MACA’s goal of safe, healthy and vibrant communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.