Ontario Construction News staff writer
The Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) says the federal government’s proposed funding for rehabilitation of stormwater systems is good news, but there is no new money to help municipalities with the cost of state-of-good-repair projects.
“When critical stormwater infrastructure is unable to cope, it can cause billions of dollars in property and environmental damage, so we are happy to see the budget will provide $1.4 billion over 12 years through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund to rehabilitate those systems,” RCCAO executive director Nadia Todorova said in a statement.
“However, a Safe Restart Agreement 2.0 or other funding mechanism is also needed to provide municipalities with financial assistance that will help them weather budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19. Without funding, these projects won’t proceed.”
The pandemic has created a serious fiscal challenge for municipalities, and immediate financial assistance is needed to deal with continued operating deficits for 2021. A report prepared for RCCAO indicated tens of thousands of construction jobs and the economic recovery of Ontario are at risk if the federal and provincial governments don’t collaborate on a Safe Restart Agreement.
“Investing in infrastructure is one of the best ways to help Ontario recover from the effects of COVID-19, as it will create jobs and spur economic growth,” Todorova said. “Every dollar spent on infrastructure has a positive multiplier spinoff effect on the economy as it tends to be more labor intensive, and the impacts are more immediate.”
RCCAO has called on the federal government to establish a fund to help municipalities improve their critical water infrastructure. An earlier RCCAO-commissioned study found that leaky and broken watermain transmission pipes are draining millions of cubic metres of water from municipal systems across Ontario. The study estimated that 30 per cent of the energy used to pump the water could be saved if leakage is addressed, resulting in savings of more than $700 million per year.
Sean Strickland, executive director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) says he is encouraged by the new Apprenticeship Service Program.
“As predicted, the budget focused on the pandemic and what Canada needs to do for a post-COVID recovery,” he said in a statement. “Canada’s Building Trades Unions were pleased to see the attention given to skilled trades workers, demonstrating the Government knows investing in our members is a key step on the path towards an economic recovery.
“The creation of the new Apprenticeship Service through ESDC will encourage more employers to hire and start apprentices – including additional incentives for hiring those from underrepresented groups. Investing in re-training, upskilling and just transition for workers in transforming sectors like energy, will position Canada better, as we look ahead.”
However, CBTU is disappointed that the budget lacked additional investments for infrastructure to address the gaps caused by reduced private sector investment.