VANCOUVER – June 19, 2006 -- Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Local Government met today to discuss infrastructure challenges faced by municipalities across Canada. Ministers called on the federal government to ensure municipal infrastructure funding, including the gas tax transfer, is predictable, flexible, permanent, long-term and effective.
The provincial and territorial ministers also held their first discussions on infrastructure with the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities.
The ministers kicked off their meeting with Minister Cannon by highlighting their actions to support municipalities and communities. The provincial / territorial ministers are pleased with Budget 2006’s confirmation of continued federal funding for municipal infrastructure, including the funds under the gas tax transfer agreements, while noting the budget commitment to put federal funding on a predictable, long-term track. The ministers also welcomed the additional funding by the federal government for the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund and the Public Transit Capital Trust announced in Budget 2006.
Northwest Territories Minister Michael McLeod, Chair of the meeting, welcomed the start of a fresh dialogue among governments. “The provincial and territorial ministers want to move forward to ensure infrastructure funding meets the diverse needs found in different parts of Canada. To do this, we need to improve working relationships among the governments involved in providing municipal infrastructure funding”, he said.
Despite these positive steps by the federal government, the provincial / territorial ministers noted that significant issues related to municipal infrastructure must be addressed. Although municipal infrastructure is vital to sustainable and competitive municipalities and communities, much of Canada’s urban and rural infrastructure is ageing or reaching capacity. Addressing municipal infrastructure needs requires a firm commitment from all governments.
Minister McLeod stated “A strong Canada starts with strong provinces, territories, municipalities and communities. We need to ensure we invest in the municipal infrastructure that is the basis for our national strength. Concluding gas tax transfer agreements with the federal government during the past year was a good start, but the federal government needs to provide permanent, flexible funding for municipal infrastructure beyond 2010.”
Since their meeting in Regina in September 2005, when an infrastructure task force was created, provincial / territorial ministers have developed recommendations to improve the design, flexibility and administration of federal infrastructure agreements for municipalities and communities. Ministers reaffirmed the principles adopted at their meeting in Quebec in 2004, and agreed that federal funding for municipal infrastructure must be:
Provincial / territorial ministers also reaffirmed the need for prior consultation with and agreement by provinces and territories on any new federal initiatives. Federal initiatives should not pressure provinces and territories to divert resources from current priorities or to focus on areas that are inconsistent with P/T priorities.
Provincial and territorial ministers concluded their meeting by reaffirming the mandate given to their infrastructure task force. They asked their officials to continue working to gain a common understanding of the issues, share information on municipal infrastructure funding initiatives, and develop recommendations for intergovernmental consultation on municipal infrastructure funding.
In the context of Budget 2006, provincial / territorial ministers and Minister Cannon agreed that their officials will start work immediately on consultations to put infrastructure funding on a predictable, long-term track.
The provincial / territorial ministers meet again in Yellowknife in September 2006. The ministers will review the progress made on how governments can meet the need for long-term municipal infrastructure investment and invite Minister Cannon to discuss the outcome of the consultations at that time.