Ontario Construction News staff writer
The federal government has taken $3.3 billion from the existing $33 billion Infrastructure Bank to create a “resilience” fund that they say will help provinces and territories pay for COVID-19-related projects at schools, hospitals and outdoor public spaces.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced details of the plan at a press conference on Wednesday.
To be eligible for funding under the COVID-19 Resilience stream, the project’s eligible costs must be under $10 million, construction must be started no later than Sept. 30, 2021, and it must be completed by the end of 2021 (or by the end of 2022 in the territories and in remote communities).
The following types of infrastructure projects will qualify:
- Retrofits, repairs and upgrades for provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous buildings; health infrastructure; and schools;
- COVID-19 response infrastructure, including measures to support physical distancing;
- Active transportation infrastructure, including parks, trails, foot bridges, bike lanes and multi-use paths; and
- Disaster mitigation and adaptation projects, including natural infrastructure, flood and fire mitigation, and tree planting and related infrastructure.
Ottawa is also streamlining the approval process and will cover 80 per cent of the cost of eligible projects submitted by provinces instead of the typical one-third of the cost of municipal projects, half the cost of provincial projects and 75 per cent of the cost in Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.
The goal is “to help address the pandemic, to make communities more resilient, to work on keeping kids and aging parents and all of us safer and also to improve the quality of life,” McKenna said during a news conference at the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.
McKenna acknowledged the infrastructure funds in question on Wednesday have been previously announced.
Ontario’s share of the announced funding is about $1.2 billion.
The Canadian Association for Long Term Care reacted to the announcement, saying the challenges are structural issues that require sustained investment and support from all levels of government.
“Canada’s seniors deserve homes that are up to date with current design standards, and this funding is a good first step in ensuring that seniors can live and age with dignity,” the association said in a statement.
NDP infrastructure critic Taylor Bachrach suggested the new measure amounted to robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the $33-billion fund was already insufficient to meet the needs of provinces and municipalities.
“Shifting this existing program and the same pot of money to new COVID-related issues means other needs will go unmet,” he said. “Offering new ways to access and cut up the same pie might sound nice, but it doesn’t actually get you any more pie.”
Opposition parties passed a motion in January, asking for an official audit of the Investing in Canada program, which committed more than $180 billion across more than a decade to infrastructure programs, arguing the Liberal government “has failed to work with our municipal and provincial partners to get shovels in the ground and deliver projects on time and on budget when our economy needed it the most.”