Caroline Cochrane: Federal Infrastructure Programs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to update the Members on how the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories are making investments in our communities that will bring economic opportunities for residents and businesses and revitalize municipal infrastructure. 

On September 6, 2016, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities,  Amarjeet Sohi  and Northwest Territories Deputy Premier, Robert C. McLeod, signed a bilateral agreement for the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund and Public Transit Fund.  This agreement will see the federal government providing over $50 million through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund to support 29 projects.  Combined with territorial and municipal contributions, more than $68 million will be going towards rehabilitation and improvements to community water and wastewater systems across the Northwest Territories. 

Approved projects include rehabilitation and replacement of piped infrastructure in Yellowknife, Fort McPherson, Norman Wells, Fort Smith and Inuvik; improvements to water plants in Tulita, Nahanni Butte and Jean Marie River; and upgrades to sewage lagoons in Whati, Fort Resolution, Lutselk’e and Dettah. These projects will ensure that our residents have access to clean and reliable drinking water, and have efficient wastewater systems to protect our environment.

The Government of Canada will also be providing Public Transit Funding of $320,000 to the City of Yellowknife to improve public transit services, and increase passenger safety and accessibility. The City will be contributing $106,000 of their own revenue to create accessible bus stops with proper sidewalks and wheelchair access, as well as, improving public safety by creating bus pull out areas.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in its mandate to leverage available funding through the New Building Canada Plan to invest in community public infrastructure. The New Building Canada Fund was introduced by Canada in 2014 and will provide $185.8 million for infrastructure projects in the Northwest Territories. Thirty-eight million of this will be through the Small Communities Fund to help smaller communities build projects that deliver on local needs. To date 16 communities have had projects approved under the Small Communities Fund, including a new arena and recreation centre in Hay River, a fitness centre in Fort Simpson and chip sealing in Norman Wells.  With the assistance of Municipal and Community Affairs and Public Works and Services, the communities of Paulatuk, Gameti and Wekweeti are combining their Small Communities funding with Municipal and Community Affairs Community Public Infrastructure funding to construct new water treatment plants.  This project will be managed by the Government of the Northwest Territories on behalf of the communities and will result in all Northwest Territories communities having water treatment plants that comply with national guidelines.

Also in 2014, the federal government legislated the Gas Tax Fund as a permanent source of infrastructure funding for municipalities.  The Government of the Northwest Territories made a commitment in its mandate to pursue new federal funding for the enhancement of community government infrastructure, and implement the asset management framework through the Gas Tax Agreement to ensure that all community infrastructure lifespan is extended and new infrastructure is delivered in a manner that takes into account new building technologies that assist in climate change adaptation and energy efficiencies.

The Government of the Northwest Territories signed a new administrative agreement which expanded the types of eligible projects and incorporated an annual increase to the funding.  In addition to water and wastewater, communities are now allowed to use their Gas Tax funding towards other categories such as public transit, solid waste management and sport and cultural infrastructure. Since this new agreement was signed, Northwest Territories communities have invested approximately $30 million in over 100 projects.

Consistent with our mandate commitment, Gas Tax funding is being leveraged to implement the Northwest Territories Asset Management Strategy, developed in partnership with the Northwest Territories Association of Communities and other community government representatives.  Municipal and Community Affairs  has purchased the license for an asset management program, Web Work Azzier, for Northwest Territories communities and the first group will begin training this winter, with the remaining communities phased in over the next three years.  Communities are faced with increased pressures to deliver better programs and services to their residents and invest in infrastructure.  This asset management strategy will help them extend the lifespan and service potential of community assets and maximize their limited financial resources.  Communities will also have the tools to take into account new building technologies that assist in climate change adaptation and efficiencies.

These federal infrastructure programs have also reduced some of the infrastructure funding deficit identified in Municipal and Community Affair’s Community Government Funding Review.  Investing in community infrastructure is vital to the quality of life for our residents and we are proud of the working relationship we have established with the federal government and municipal governments to achieve this.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.