Canadian municipalities should not have to compete with each other for badly needed infrastructure funding, a Gibsons councillor told area member of Parliament John Weston last week.
Coun. Gerry Tretick was responding to comments from Weston (West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky MP) during an appearance Feb. 19 before Gibsons council.
Weston was speaking on the importance of keeping communication channels open between his office and the Town on Gibsons’ infrastructure needs, so that “we have a leg up on Winnipeg and Saskatoon and all of the other governments from across Canada that are competing for resources.”
Tretick said the notion of municipalities competing is, to him, a central issue.
“It’s not a competition. We all have the same problem. What we need is a stable form of funding that allows the whole country to plan effectively,” he said. “The idea of competition is not the answer. Grants come and go and small communities have a hard time competing.”
Weston said he understood the concern, but had to work under the current system.
“I agree with you in part, Gerry, but the reality is I’m your MP and I’m going to be doing the best job for Gibsons that I possibly can. And so within the theatre in which we’re acting, I desperately want to know what your priorities are,” Weston said.
Weston went on to identify promoting cycling as a priority identified by the Town for the coming year, noting cycling “is something that I really care a lot about.”
In his comments to the MP, Tretick also linked infrastructure needs to recreation programs.
“There is a relationship between recreation programs and infrastructure and that is, you can’t do all of them, so you have to make choices,” Tretick said. “Right now the infrastructure issue is so huge, and the cost of running recreation is so large as well, that I think recreation is going to start to suffer. You can’t afford to do everything and that’s particularly the case in small rural communities where the taxation availability is so limited.”
Mayor Wayne Rowe also raised the infrastructure crunch as a major issue, calling it “quite frankly, a very serious challenge” for the Town.
“A lot of the infrastructure in this town and many other towns is 50, 60 years old and it’s reached the end of its lifespan and we’re having to deal with it, but we’re going to be needing the federal government to step up and provide that predictable funding,” Rowe said, telling Weston that “we really need you to carry this message” to Ottawa.
In reply, Weston said the Building Canada Fund is a major source of infrastructure funding, which the government is trying to extend beyond the end of 2014, while the Gas Tax Fund is legislated as a shared, ongoing revenue source for local government.
“Certainly it’s not enough,” he said. “We’ve heard about this infrastructure gap time and again across Canada, but I think the Gas Tax Fund is one good step forward.”