The provincial government last month announced a long-term infrastructure plan for Ontario called “Building Together: Jobs and Prosperity for Ontarian’s” which, for the first time, outlines the government’s framework for infrastructure investment over the next decade.
It’s a multi-billion dollar commitment to rebuild hospitals, schools, transit systems and the like throughout Ontario, and it will begin with the investment of over $35-billion in the next three years – including $12.8-billion in 2011-2012.
Wellesley Township, however, shouldn’t expect any of that funding to come their way in the near future, according to the township’s executive director of operations.
“It doesn’t sound like we will get any. They’re making these announcements, but when you read it, it’s really nothing,” said Willis McLaughlin after reviewing the provincial plan.
“We’ve seen those before, they wave the flag and beat the drum, but what do we get out of it? Nothing.”
To date, Wellesley has already received more than $1.4 million in funding for six township
improvement projects, such as the St. Clements Arena ($294,566) and improvements to Steffler Road ($332,267), but each of those projects are either completed or near completion, and new funds are needed – in particular for more road improvements.
A potential source of revenue would be the provincial gas tax program, but under current guidelines Wellesley is ineligible to receive that funding. Currently, the province shares two cents from every liter of gas sold in Ontario with municipalities – but only those with a transit system. The goal of the program is to create investment in public transit throughout the province and to promote its use among the public, but effectively shuts out any municipality devoid of such transit options, such as Wellesley.
In 2008/2009, that funding equated to more than $8.7 million for the region of Waterloo transit, and in 2010 93 municipal transit systems in Ontario shared $316 million in funding.
McLaughlin is disappointed with the fact that the province has not changed the stipulations under its provincial gas tax in their new ten-year plan.
“We’d appreciate funding in spite of the fact that we don’t have a transit system,” said McLaughlin, noting that in Wellesley, “our transit system is our roads.”
Through the federal gas tax program, which is distributed to all municipalities and is based on a per capita formula, Wellesley collected $304,298.21 in 2009-2010, and although that funding is slated to continue for at least the near term, McLaughlin said the addition of provincial gas tax funding would be appreciated, and that any change to the provincial gas tax funding policies in support of the infrastructure needs of small municipalities would certainly be welcomed.
The Ontario Good Roads Association has also expressed their disappointment in the failure of the government’s decision to not extend the gas tax program to smaller municipalities that lack a transit system in a statement released on June 24.