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July 18, 2024
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News
July 3, 2024

Mind the Gap

Wardens advocate for more infrastructure investment from feds and province
<p>(EOWC Supplied photo)</p>
(EOWC Supplied photo)

Desperately needed support for infrastructure renewal is not just a local issue. Rural municipalities across Eastern Ontario have no funds, and no funding, for their roads and bridges.

The Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus is demanding help from upper levels of government, backed up with alarming numbers.

A three-year plan and policy statement details the rate at which bridges and roads in Eastern Ontario are deteriorating — and the lack of capital reserves available to fund them.

EOWC’s outlook for the needs of infrastructure investment in this part of the province is “eye watering,” according to Councillor Phil St-Jean. On average, municipalities would need to increase taxes by an average of 5 per cent per year for the next 20 years to meet the just the cost of rehabilitating worn down infrastructure.

EOWC municipal members. (EOWC photo)

Together, EOWC municipalities manage $12 billion in physical assets such as roads and bridges. Existing municipal revenue streams are not enough to maintain, never mind grow, current infrastructure.

The Warden’s Caucus is a 13-member non-profit advocacy group for rural municipalities across eastern Ontario. Shared issues, such as healthcare and affordable housing, as well as infrastructure, create strength in numbers.

Infrastructure Deficit

The rural infrastructure deficit in Eastern Ontario was $3.74 billion in 2011. It is now $5.8 billion. To bridge that widening gap, nearly $1 billion in annual capital investment is required. An additional $578 million must be added to current infrastructure needs, along with the $403 million already levied on taxpayers for roads and bridges.

If current and new investment started immediately, the EOWC estimates the infrastructure deficit would be eliminated in 10 years. But that still doesn’t account for new infrastructure.

“Despite our ongoing efforts, the gap continues to widen. This is further exacerbated in rural and Eastern Ontario, where investments have fallen short,” the EOWC says in its strategic plan.

“These are very alarming numbers and they illustrate we are not alone in dealing with the decline with our roads and bridges,” Councillor St-Jean said. “We need a new deal with the province and the federal government because we can’t do this on the back of our taxpayers.”

Calling for help

The policy paper calls for both the federal and provincial governments to address the growing infrastructure deficit by ensuring that eligibility for programs and funding fits both rural and small urban circumstances. The EOWC also wants the province to provide more predictable, non-competitive and permanent infrastructure funding streams through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF).

“The three top priorities are issues we are all cognizant of and are issues all 13 member municipalities are dealing with,” said Mayor Ferguson. “They are top of mind within every rural municipality in eastern Ontario. We look forward to the EOWC amplifying the needs of the municipalities, lobbying efforts to upper levels of government and ensuring the needs of eastern Ontario communities are getting the attention and the funding we so desperately need.” 

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