Kelowna fights for federal funding

Kelowna councillor, Robert Hobson came away somewhat encouraged after taking in the four day Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Conference in Vancouver.

The conference wrapped up Monday.

The annual conference gives municipal government leaders a chance to gather and share ideas on everything from infrastructure costs to transit.

Several federal ministers and opposition party leaders also attended.

"The core discussion at the conference was around the infrastructure deficit, how we are going to pay for it and finding new sources of revenue for local government facing some of the new issues that are facing us," says Hobson.

Programs such as the fully indexed Gas Tax Fund and a $53B infrastructure program are certainly a start.

"I think FCM would tell you they have done a study and found the existing infrastructure deficit for local governments in Canada is $100B so getting $53B over the next 10 years doesn't really take care of the next wave of what is required," says Hobson.

"But, you need partnerships and local taxpayers have to pay their share - developers have to pay their share - provincial governments have to pay their share."

While Kelowna is well positioned to take advantage of shovel-ready infrastructure projects through well stocked reserve funds, Hobson says municipalities across the country, including Kelowna, are being hurt by a government that is not stepping up to the plate as it once did.

Hobson cited housing, homelessness initiatives, transit and public safety expenses are areas where the feds have either downloaded costs onto municipalities, have reduced funding or stopped funding altogether.

In terms of housing, Hobson says the feds are not renewing housing agreements it entered into some 30 years ago meaning about 200,000 people across the country living in subsidized housing are not going to have the federal contribution to fall back on.

"It will fall on provincial and local governments to help," says Hobson who admits the City of Kelowna is trying to determine how many of those units fall within the city.

Hobson adds significant funds are needed for transit improvements, however, there is not enough municipal tax money to pay for it.

"It's going to require federal and provincial partnerships or new sources of revenue."

Hobson admits he did find several new ideas and lots of new technologies at the FCM conference that will assist the city in the long run.

"I think there are ways we can invest in our community that will reduce future operating costs."

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