ANTIGONISH: Municipalities within Central Nova received an unexpected $3.8 million boost from Ottawa during an election-year announcement that sees the 2019-20 one-time top up transfer double from previous years.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s 2019 budget included a one-time $2.2 billion transfer from the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) to cities and towns across the country to “address serious infrastructure deficits” and “the short-term priorities” of municipalities and First Nation communities.
As the Liberal government seeks to speed up the roll-out of its signature infrastructure plan, the “Investing in Canada Plan” is a $95.6 billion, 12-year bump in infrastructure spending meant to spur economic growth, but according to the 2019 budget, phase two has stalled. The move effectively doubles the federal government’s transfers through the gas tax fund for 2019-20 to $4.4 billion. That means a roughly $58.5 million share for the province of Nova Scotia.
Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova announced the contributions to the municipalities in his riding on March 29. The Municipality of the County of Antigonish is scheduled to receive $666,420.46, while the Town of Antigonish will receive $325,640.27.
“During the last campaign, one of the things we spoke about at length was giving a shot in the arm to our economy by investing in Canada’s infrastructure,” Fraser told The Reporter. “What that essentially means is helping fund the things communities need but also put people to work in the process, and locally, we’ve had a number of infrastructure projects go forward recently.”
Fraser highlighted the nine wharfs and small craft harbours that have either been re-structured or repaired, the twinning of the stretch of Highway 104 from Antigonish and Sutherland’s River, and the $30 million investment in the Institute of Government and the Centre for Innovation and Health on the StFX campus, as being major infrastructure projects that stands out to him.
“If you look at the highway for example, that was one of the top issues during the last federal election campaign, whether we were going to get that highway twinned and I know we’ve made a serious investment in things like wastewater infrastructure,” he said. “In my riding more than others, it’s actually became a political priority, for the residents of the area, who see the need for these major projects to go ahead.”
This one-time top up will see funds transferred directly to the municipalities allowing local communities to select how best to direct the funds with the flexibility to make strategic investments across 18 project categories. These categories include local roads and bridges, highways, broadband connectivity, public transit, clean and wastewater projects, sport and recreation infrastructure, and tourism infrastructure.
Both the Town and County of Antigonish welcome the unexpected transfer as being very significant.
Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron said the doubling of their annual transfer is a very welcome and appreciated infusion of infrastructure dollars from the federal government.
He indicated municipal staff will be discussing possibilities for project funding in the coming weeks but indicated the most recent infrastructure projects to receive gas tax funding included; water meter project installation for Lower South River and the Fringe Area water ultities, solar panel installation on the municipal administration building, and three generators for their municipal water treatment facility.
“Antigonish County residents expect municipal infrastructure to be of high quality and reliability, and so do we,” McCarron said. “All municipal infrastructure is very costly so it is extremely important for our municipality to receive cost-sharing for any infrastructure projects that the county proceeds with, another reason why we are very appreciative of increase in gas tax transfer.”
Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher said the town will try to stretch their additional transfer as far as possible.
“One of our major projects for the upcoming year is the Hawthorne-Main construction, we’re redoing the entire intersection,” she said. “We have to complete underground infrastructure, lights, change in sidewalks, and will implement an island in the middle of the intersection.”
Boucher explained with recent gas tax funding, the town was able to construct a new sidewalk on West Street, install new traffic lights at Highland and West Street, implement accessible sounds on their crosswalks, and complete regular wear-and-tear construction to parking lots.
“Some of the things we want to do this year with our gas tax funding is to assist with the final push on our skate park and another priority of ours is with the Challenger Baseball accessible field.”