Kindersley’s Budget and the Liberals’ Platform

Perhaps you are tired of me going on about infrastructure; I can understand why: I’ve cried infrastructure poverty, lamented the lack of money, fretted about where the money is coming from to build a new waste water lagoon, enhance the water treatment plant, build a new fire hall, purchase a new fire truck, build phase 2 including a pool, gym/fieldhouse, and an arts centre, implement our ongoing asset management plan, invest in the WCEC during its high maintenance stage of its life cycle and the repair, maintenance, or replacement of our other facilties.

So, to further bore you on the topic and make you numb with numbers, here are more infrastructure numbers I got from the Frazier Institute regarding the importance of infrastructure in Canada. The Institute’s main point is that the numbers vary. Consider:

  • FCM believes that the national municipal infrastructure deficit is about $123 billion and broken down like this:
    • water and waste water systems ($31 billion) – Kindersley’s is about $10 million broadly speaking
    • transportation ($21.7 billion) – Kindersley’s is about $6 million
    • transit ($22.8 billion) – we just replaced our bus
    • waste management ($7.7 billion) – Kindersley’s is about $3-$4 million and
    • community, recreational, cultural and social infrastructure ($40.2 billion) – Kindersley is about $30 million
    • FCM claims that the infrastructure deficit, also known as asset cost recovery, could climb to $2 trillion by 2016.
  • The McKinsey Global Institute states that Canada must invest $66 billion by 2023 to maintain roads and bridges.
  • The Canadian Chamber of Commerce assets that the infrastructure is between $50 billion and $570 billion – the Chamber calls for significant increases in infrastructure spending.
  • The Canada West Foundation says the infrastructure deficit is $123 billion for existing infrastructure and that another $110 billion is needed for new infrastructure.
  • The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says that over the next 10 years there needs to be between $600 billion and $750 billion spent on infrastructure.

Everyone agrees there is a problem, not everyone agrees on the price. The reason for the lack of agreement on the cost is that not all municipalities and other governments have done their homework to assess their infrastructure. Here in Kindersley we have completed our:

  • Infrastructure needs assessment leading to our Infrastructure Capacity Plan,
  • Asset Management Plan,
  • Traffic Plan,
  • WCCC Needs and Operational Assessment (our rec and culture needs)
  • Long-Term Financial Plan,
  • Regional Landfill Development,
  • Landfill Environmental Site Assessment, and
  • Working on our Quality of Life Plan (Economic development along with arts, recreation, and culture).

The Town is doing this to better understand and prepare for what we need to do to ensure that Kindersley is a healthy and vibrant sustainable community.

The question is: how do we pay for this? We can’t do this on our own. Kindersley, like municipalities across the country need the help of the other levels of government – the provincial and federal governments.

Here is part of the Liberal Platform regarding the jobs and economy that addresses infrastructure.

  • 2015 Election Announcement Invest $19.7 billion over 10 years in public transit, including:
    • both new capital construction and state of good repair, with proposed funding of $1.675 billion in both 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 and $1.15 billion in both 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.
    • The Liberal Party has not confirmed the amount of funding that would be dedicated to local government projects.
  • Invest $19.7 billion over 10 years in green infrastructure, including:
    • local water and wastewater,
    • climate resilient infrastructure and clean energy, with proposed funding of $1.675 billion in both 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 and $1.15 billion in both 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.
    • The Liberal Party has not confirmed the amount of funding that would be dedicated to local government projects.
  • Ensure “long-term predictability” for municipalities, provinces and territories;
  • Automatically transfer any uncommitted federal infrastructure funds near the end of any fiscal year to municipalities, through a temporary top-up of the Gas Tax Fund;
  • Remove the P3 screen for the New Building Canada Fund and new infrastructure funds.
  • Establish the Canadian Infrastructure Bank to provide low-cost financing to municipalities to build their infrastructure projects, and;
  • Issue Green Bonds to make green infrastructure projects more attractive to private investors.

The Liberals have promised increased spending but, even by the conservative estimates regarding the need for infrastructure spending, it doesn’t seem to be enough. More is needed. However, spending isn’t the only solution: municipalities must start taking themselves seriously and treating themselves as the multimillion dollar corporations they are. That means applying appropriate business disciplines and methods where appropriate, innovating as needed, and acting like a social enterprise as required.

I want to leave you with an anecdote I heard. A small municipality, but not too small, has total reserves of $74,000. That is all. To fix a bad water main break can cost $500,000. That community’s leadership is one mishap away from annual crisis management and begging the provincial and federal government for emergency assistance. This leads to our Council’s concern: are we going to be punished for the development and best practices implementation that have led us to have appropriate plans and developing reserves to address our challenges?