Kamloops City councillors shared in the relief felt by civic politicians Canada wide Friday as the federal government committed to extending a major infrastructure fund.
Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel made the announcement at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual convention that the seven-year, $33-billion fund begun in 2007 will continue past 2014.
Coun. Nancy Bepple said Lebel has committed to having the framework set for the extension by the end of the year.
She said the City relies on the funding for major projects like the wastewater treatment plant, with some planned years in advance.
“It gives us some certainty,” Bepple said during a phone interview from the convention in Saskatchewan. “We still don’t know how the plan will be laid out. There’s concerns it’s only for equipment and not operating costs. Those things need to be decided on.”
Lebel said he will chair a series of roundtable discussions across the country over the summer to gather views from municipalities, corporations and the public on Canada’s infrastructure needs.
Nine meetings are to be held: one in each of the western provinces, Ontario and Quebec; one in the North and two in Atlantic Canada.
Lebel would not say how much money will be on the table because that depends on the overall performance of the economy.
On Thursday, the big-city mayors warned that they don’t have the cash to pay for improvements to roads, public transit, aging water systems and public housing.
Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, in a speech to the federation Friday, said cash-strapped municipalities are now responsible for 60 per cent of public infrastructure and face a “staggering” $123-billion infrastructure deficit.
Roundtable talks wouldn’t remedy crumbling bridges, traffic gridlock and aging waste-water treatment facilities, Mulcair said.
The assembled mayors applauded Mulcair’s pledge to transfer an additional one cent of gas tax revenues to municipalities should the NDP form government.
But he got a rocky reception from some western mayors on another issue.
While taking questions from the crowd, Mulcair was told by the mayor of Spruce Grove, Alta., to “stop taking shots at the Alberta oil industry” because it isn’t winning him any “brownie points” in Western Canada.