The 2021 federal budget brings good news for the City of Red Deer, which will receive $6-million for roadwork and other infrastructure needs.
Chief financial officer Dean Krejci said he was glad to receive confirmation that Ottawa is not only continuing to grant federal gas tax proceeds to municipalities — but that this money would be increased.
A “one-time doubling of the gas tax fund” is also being welcomed by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), which stated “it will be instrumental in creating jobs during the current economic recovery and supporting municipalities to repair needed infrastructure.”
Red Deer’s $6 million allocation for 2021 is about a 4.7 per cent increase from past years.
Krejci said this money has to be spent on capital projects: “We primarily use it for the Crown paving program,” including road resurfacing and the replacement of traffic lights.
Since the city will need to re-do some roads in the southeast, and is planning a new traffic circle at 40 Ave. and Delburne Road (19 St.) the money will go to good use, he added.
Krejci is meanwhile keeping an eye out for details about government grants announced for affordable housing and transit services to see how Red Deer could benefit.
Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland’s announcement that an additional $2.5 billion will be available for affordable housing was welcomed by the AUMA since there is “a desperate need for accessible, affordable housing across many Alberta communities.”
The association hopes this funding will stimulate the economy, as well as result “in a visible reduction in homelessness and (a corresponding) savings in health, justice, and law enforcement costs.”
As for the transit funds, Krejci said the federal Liberal government wants to improve bus connections to rural areas and also provide funding incentives for “electrifying public transit.”
The City of Red Deer once considered changing over to electric buses, but after questions arose about the reliability of this technology in Alberta winters, council went for compressed natural gas buses instead.
Krejci said it’s still a lower polluting fuel source than diesel, so he hopes a transit system with natural gas buses will qualify for some of federal funding.
The promise to boost transit was viewed positively by the AUMA, which is advocating for the Government of Alberta to reinstate permanent long-term transit funding to Alberta municipalities.
While Ottawa did not announce any new money for municipal COVID relief this year, Krejci said the federal government was generous in providing for this in 2020. After replacing some of the revenues lost by the city of Red Deer in transit fees, permit applications, parking, etc. the city was still able to put $9 million away in its operating funds for future relief needs, he added.
“For the country as a whole (the budget) has a lot of the supports that people were looking for as we start to recover from the pandemic,” said Krejci — although many of the details are yet to be provided.
According to the AUMA, the federal budget brings “hope that the federal and provincial governments might work together to ease the burden on Alberta’s residents.”
President Barry Morishita said, “These are sensible and targeted funding measures… I look forward to hearing how the province intends to take advantage of these (matching) federal funds so Albertans can see the best possible future for their friends, neighbours, and themselves.”