Ontario municipalities own the core infrastructure assets that are critical to the quality of life and competitiveness of the province. Municipalities own two thirds of Ontario’s public infrastructure; more than the provincial and federal governments combined. This infrastructure gets people and goods moving, provides safe drinking water, handles waste, provides space for sport and recreation, and helps protect homes against flooding and other natural disasters. The delivery of these essential public services is reliant on a strong foundation of municipal infrastructure which enables communities and local businesses to grow, and ensures Ontarians can lead safe and healthy lives. Furthermore, it is estimated that for every $1-billion spent on infrastructure, GDP would be boosted by $1.14-billion and would create 16,700 jobs.
According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the province’s municipalities are responsible for maintaining more than 15,000 bridges and culverts as well as over 140,000 kilometres of roads and are currently facing an infrastructure deficit of over $60 billion. Roads and bridges account for $28 billion of this deficit alone. Although the federal and provincial governments have increased spending on infrastructure in recent years, municipalities continue to struggle to properly fund projects that are critical to their communities. A commitment to improving stable and long-term funding with minimal restrictions is required to tackle the backlog of municipal infrastructure projects around the province.
The one size fits all approach of some federally and provincially designed infrastructure programs reflect the respective priorities and timelines of those governments and not those of municipalities. Project funding is often delayed in its delivery and ends up putting projects on hold for years. This is unacceptable. Furthermore, this funding is unpredictable as it can change when a new government is elected. Municipal infrastructure funding should not be held hostage by the electoral cycles of other levels of government. The federal Gas Tax Fund and the provincial Gas Tax Program provide formula-based funding that provide predictable, long-term funding sources with minimal restrictions. This allows municipalities to make the decisions that are right for their communities. Strengthening programs of this nature is key to improving the way municipalities plan and fund infrastructure projects.
In order to maintain the high quality of life that Ontarians have come to enjoy, foster economic development, and boost productivity, municipalities require stable, long-term municipal infrastructure funding. Federal and provincial programs are appreciated, but municipal leaders are best positioned to make local infrastructure decisions. Whichever party forms government after the June 7th provincial election must understand this.