Budget 2013 and Northern Infrastructure
FCM's submission to the Government of Canada's Long-Term Infrastructure Plan Consultation, The Road to Jobs and Growth: Solving Canada's Municipal Infrastructure Challenge, included targeted recommendations for designing new infrastructure investments that work in Canada's North.
The 2013 federal budget entrenched the principle of predictable, long-term investments in infrastructure including the FCM-delivered permanent index of the Gas Tax Fund and a new 10-year Building Canada Fund (BCF).
The design of the new infrastructure programs must recognize the unique conditions of Northern and remote communities including: extreme isolation, a shorter and highly variable construction season, limited human resource availability and capacity, limited access to capital; growing demands on aging and existing infrastructure; early stages of corporate development; and unique project needs.
To accommodate and respond to these unique conditions, FCM recommends the following "best practices" for federal investments in northern infrastructure:
- Use "base + population" or similar approach for the national allocation formula to ensure the territories receive funding adequate to their unique needs.
- Generally disburse funds using a transfer-style mechanism like the Gas Tax Fund; very few funds should be application based;
- Maximize the ability of communities to "stack" federal funds from various programs, given the limited local availability of capital;
- Application forms and reporting requirements should be simplified, and designed specifically for the territories;
- Ensure territorial municipal associations or other partners are allowed to apply for funding on behalf of northern municipalities;
- Broaden the list of eligible project categories, including recreational infrastructure, in recognition of the importance of all public infrastructure in these small communities.
Building communities in the North is important for local social and economic sustainability. Given the role this region plays in national sovereignty and supporting resource development, these investments should also be seen as critical to nation building.