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South Okanagan-West Kootenay NDP candidate talks infrastructure funding

The Trail Times asked all six candidates the same question

The Trail Times asked, “If elected as our MP, how will you help taxpayers in Trail and the Greater Area fill this funding gap?”

Richard Cannings – NDP

Municipalities across Canada have felt the weight of a constant downloading of infrastructure costs over the past 30 years from successive Liberal and Conservative federal governments. The impacts of this downloading are disproportionately borne by smaller communities with small tax bases, since it costs about the same amount to build water treatment plants for 10,000 people as it does for a city of 50,000.

The regional water treatment plant planned by Trail, Warfield, and Rossland is a case in point. A modern plant is desperately needed as the present system is many decades old and far behind modern standards, discharging water into the Columbia that has had primary treatment— only the solids have been removed.

In a heartening example of regional cooperation, the municipalities planned a new, shared wastewater plant, with costs based on the funding model of the time: 50% federal, 33% provincial and 17% municipal. After the planning was done and the project ready to proceed, the federal government suddenly announced that their share would go down to 40%, thus increasing the municipal share to 27%.

The Liberals have never explained the reason for this sudden reversal, but it may relate to the $15 billion that they removed from the infrastructure funding promised to communities in order to finance a public-private infrastructure bank that has yet supported only two projects with loans.

I’ve written to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities about this change in policy in general and about the regional wastewater plant proposal in particular but have not received a reply.

The NDP vision is one where small communities can afford to build the infrastructure they need, from roads and bridges to community centres and childcare centres and everything in between. This means reliable public infrastructure funding that puts people – not profit – first.

New Democrats will work to put in place a new deal for rural infrastructure programs that provide long-term predictable funding for small communities. And we’ll increase the amount of help the federal government provides to communities to adapt to climate change and rebuild when disasters happen.

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