Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer expressed disappointment and concern that Tuesday’s federal budget is quiet on municipal infrastructure funding.
“Community building is country building,” said Veer on Wednesday. “While the budget details have yet to be released we are concerned there was no direct recognition of the infrastructure needs of Canada’s cities.”
Tuesday’s $340-billion federal budget makes no reference to municipal funding and partnerships, or to funding for infrastructure projects, both of which are essential to mid-size communities and were a major feature of last year’s budget, said Veer.
“In a previous budget year, there had been a lot intentional reference to municipalities, to the infrastructure needs of municipalities,” she said in a news conference at city hall.
“That was probably one area of glaring departure from previous budgets that we felt was missing.”
Municipalities will continue to get a share of the federal gas tax, which pumped about $5 million into the city last year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $231 million over five years to tackle the country’s opioid crisis and some of that money may or may not come Red Deer’s way.
“Until they release the specific details of that we won’t know how Red Deer can potentially benefit from that in terms of helping to resolve our own crisis,” said Veer.
There could be federal money coming to the city through the National Housing Strategy, National Homelessness Partnering Strategy and additional funding for indigenous peoples but those details have not been released yet.
The federal government has also promised to share with the province revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana. How much of that cash will flow down to municipalities also is as yet unclear.
Veer said the city takes the position that since it will face most regulatory and enforcement associated with marijuana and it needs more revenue so it does not become another provincial download.
“We will be looking for how and if those dollars translate directly into Red Deer,” she said.
City manager Craig Curtis also commented on the absence of infrastructure spending details, pointing out federal infrastructure funding provides stability for communities.
“Federal investment serves as a reliable accompaniment to our local capital plans, and provides a dependable source of economic growth for the community.”
The federal budget is “obviously a social justice budget in many respects,” said Curtis. It focuses on “big-picture issues” such as a national pharmacare program, parental leave and gender equality.
Typically, federal budget details trickle out over the ensuing months and the city is watching closely to see how it will be affected.