Harris hopes new federal infrastructure funding will cover amenities

A new federal infrastructure program starting after 2014 will hopefully cover recreational and cultural amenities and not just money for roads, sewers and bridges, says a city councillor.

A new federal infrastructure program starting after 2014 will hopefully cover recreational and cultural amenities and not just money for roads, sewers and bridges, says a city councillor.

Paul Harris, elected to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities board this past June, said the federal government is looking at a long-term plan for public infrastructure once the current Building Canada Fund ends in 2014.

The plan promises to stop the decline in municipal infrastructure and build the roads, bridges, water, transit systems and social infrastructure needed to support families, businesses and economic growth.

Harris brought the news of the federal program back to the city after recently attending the FCM annual meeting on Parliament Hill involving more than 100 municipal leaders.

“There is social infrastructure like aquatics centres and concert halls that some municipalities need more than they need a bridge,” said Harris on Sunday.

Harris said having federal funding for social infrastructure would be great for Red Deer because there are currently groups seeking a concert hall and a 50-metre swimming pool.

The city has pushed back plans on the swimming pool until 2021, at the earliest, due to its high price tag of an estimated $83.7 million.

“The idea for the concert hall has been going on for years and there is no funding from the federal government,” said Harris.

With this new federal infrastructure program coming on stream, Harris said it’s important that Ottawa gets the message that these “quality of life” amenities are important.

He’d like to see the federal program be more flexible in the type of infrastructure it will support.

“Whatever it looks like in 2014, I hope that it is flexible enough for Red Deer to prioritize its most pressing needs, and allow us to build some of our community amenities we’ve been asked for,” said Harris.

The long-term infrastructure plan will involve consulting with provinces and territories, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which lobbies on behalf of more than 2,000 members.

“The city’s infrastructure is used by Red Deerians every day, and we cannot let our roads, bridges, water, transit systems and social infrastructure fall into disrepair,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling in a news release.

“A plan for flexible, long-term funding for infrastructure will help us as we continue to grow.”

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— copyright Red Deer Advocate