When reading through the fine lines of the federal budget there were only a couple nuggets of promised money that may trickle to the Northwest.
Significant funds for infrastructure was a big promise during the Liberal’s campaign in the fall, and that was what everyone was expecting on Tuesday, March 22 when the budget was released.
A new clean and wastewater fund of $2 billion over four years starting in 2016 was announced for municipalities for immediate improvements to water distribution and treatment infrastructure.
That was about the only thing Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen was postive about.
“That will be one of the first things [I will discuss] when I’m communicating with cities and councils to focus in on what infrastructure money is coming immediately because that is the stuff I feel I can talk about,” Cullen said.
He said with all of Prince Rupert’s water problems, “we need to take care of and connect them to the federal government to make sure that we’re front of the line in getting the funding”.
The City of Prince Rupert has made it known how dire the water situation is in the city. The need to repair the 100-year-old water facility is an expensive priority, as well as getting a sewage treatment facility.
To help water projects move quickly, “the government will fund up to 50 per cent of eligible costs for projects”, which may be the rub in this deal. The City of Prince Rupert will need to pony up half the cash in order to get the much-needed projects going.
Another nugget in the budget pertains to improving the VIA rail service from Halifax to Prince Rupert. The government will give $7.7 million in 2016-2017 to VIA Rail for technical studies and for safety upgrades at grade crossings on tracks owned by VIA Rail.
“I’m glad to hear that and we’ll be looking into it further,” said Port Edward Mayor Dave MacDonald.
The District of Port Edward has plans to upgrade the crossings in its community but is lacking the funds. The Chief Administrative Officer Bob Payette has reached out to stakeholders in the area that use the track to get funds but with little luck.
“It’s not just a whistle issue, it’s the safety. It’s very important and more so when we gear up for all the industry in the area,” MacDonald said.