Infrastructure projects in communities with fewer than 100,000 residents will be able to tap in to a $1-billion Small Communities Fund, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday.
Harper unveiled much-anticipated details of the New Building Canada Fund, a $14-billion, 10-year infrastructure plan.
"Our government’s commitment to small communities has never been stronger. Under the New Building Canada Plan, we are providing predictable, stable support so that municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents can build the projects that matter most to them," the prime minister stated in a press release.
Out of the $14-billion fund, $4 billion will support projects of national significance while $9 billion will go to provincial/regional projects and $1 billion for communities with less than 100,000 residents.
The new fund will be launched March 31, so applications will begin rolling in at that time.
City of Brandon officials have been anxiously awaiting these details, as the city has some pressing infrastructure needs.
City manager Scott Hildebrand said the next step for the city is to get detailed business plans together and start submitting them to the appropriate category.
"It’s very exciting," he said. "I’m glad this is coming out, it doesn’t look like there’s any restrictions. It looks like we’re good to go … That’ll allow Brandon to continue to grow as it has been in the last number of years."
Hildebrand said the top infrastructure needs for the city include upgrades to the Brandon Municipal Airport, the widening of the Daly Overpass on 18th Street and upgrades to the community Sportsplex.
"We’ll now take our priorities, refine them with council and with administration and then determine what category they fall in and start working with our provincial counterparts," Hildebrand said.
Under the provincial-territorial infrastructure component, each province and territory will receive a base amount of $250 million plus a per capita allocation over the 10 years of the program. Manitoba’s per capita distribution will be more than $217 million (based on 2011 Census figures.)
Assiniboine Community College president Mark Frison was pleased and relieved to see that public post-secondary institutions are eligible recipients of the provincial-territorial infrastructure funds.
"They signalled that in the 2013 budget so we were just looking to make sure that held true. It does, and so again, that presents an opportunity for the province to have discussions with the federal government about how that might be leveraged … for projects like ours on the North Hill," Frison said. "Given the size that some of these infrastructure projects for post-secondary institutions, federal government support would make a big difference."
ACC is in need of government funding as they look to complete the move from its Victoria Avenue East campus to the North Hill.
Claude Dauphin, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said the FCM welcomes the federal government’s "commitment to long-term, predictable and stable infrastructure funding for our cities and communities."
FCM represents more than 2,000 communities across the country.
In a written statement, Dauphin said "the Small Communities Fund recognizes that small, rural, remote and northern communities need greater predictability and access to infrastructure funding."
Dauphin pointed out that there are 45 days until April 1, when the municipal construction season begins.
"The federal government needs to work with FCM on details of the New Building Canada Fund that will be critical to ensuring it delivers the best value for Canadians."