Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa to Extend Funding to Cities Past 2014; Municipalities Relieved: Mayors Relieved That Ottawa Extending Funding

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa to Extend Funding to Cities Past 2014; Municipalities Relieved: Mayors Relieved That Ottawa Extending Funding

Article excerpt

SASKATOON - The president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities says mayors across the country are relieved that the federal government has committed to extending a major infrastructure fund.

Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel announced at the federation's annual convention on Friday that the seven-year, $33-billion fund begun in 2007 will continue past 2014.

Details are to be announced in time for that year's construction season, Lebel said.

"Quite frankly there was some anxiety amongst elected leaders across this country about how this program was coming along," federation president Berry Vrbanovic said. "I would say I'm feeling relieved."

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.

The data is to form the basis of the next phase of the national infrastructure strategy, he said.

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.

"I can't promise you billions if we don't have them," he said. "We have to wait to see what the Canadian economy will be like at that time."

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.

"Right now, we are getting eight cents on the tax dollar paid by Canadians. And eight cents is simply not enough," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

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. …

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