Three years ago, the City of Brampton led residents to believe that Brampton had substantial shovel ready projects to propose to the Federal Government for funding. It didn’t.
The Riverwalk project as an example was sold to residents by Councillors and city staff as being shovel ready. The project would finally provide flood protection in the downtown and open up new development opportunities. More importantly, it would be paid for by the federal government. We now know that the project is still undergoing an environmental assessment which will not be completed until 2020. Funding has not been secured for the actual development of the project.
“Shovel Ready” status indicates that a project is ready to be built. This is important because the Federal Government launched the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan back in 2016 to accelerate federal investments in the rehabilitation, repair and modernization of public transit, green and social infrastructure across Canada. The plan called for over $180 billion dollars for projects that were considered “shovel ready”. In theory, projects like Riverwalk are the types of projects that could be funded. The intent was to ease the tax burden to municipal taxpayers and give a predictable source of funding that would support local priorities and help communities prosper and innovate.
Local MP’s when asked in prior years about the status of Brampton’s shovel ready projects indicated that the city had yet to submit projects for funding. As the city prepares to approve its 2019 city budget on March 27th, the question remains… Does the city have substantial shovel ready projects approved or even submitted for funding?
In a recent report to council, 16 shovel ready projects were listed with a total dollar amount of only $125 million. This figure is abysmally low in comparison to the size of Brampton’s needs and the availability of $180 billion in federal funding. And based on what happens in the upcoming federal election, the Infrastructure Fund could potentially disappear.
In terms of the city’s financial need for capital projects, a 2017 report indicates that 41% of city owned facilities are in need of critical repair. Further, an infrastructure gap of $246 million is expected to grow to $743 million by 2027. The report states that at “this time there are no immediate financial implications resulting from this report” and that “future success in securing additional external funding will help alleviate the property tax burden on the City’s residents.” How can the city plan on the assumption of “future success”?
The need is also compounded as Brampton is at the mercy of the Provincial government in generating revenue to pay for services and in absorbing services which get downloaded. Municipalities cannot carry deficits and there is little room to raise revenue from sources other than property taxes. This is exasperated in Brampton by the lack of industry and a heavy reliance on individual homeowner property taxes.
The province is also contemplating changing the ability of municipalities like Brampton to recoup water infrastructure costs from developers. The result could be a regional water bill hike of $500 on average per household in the near future.
The tax increase to fund the 2019 city budget promises to be the lowest in over 20 years. Just remember to ask all of your representatives what they are doing to secure a bigger portion of the $180 billion infrastructure funding so that your property taxes don’t take a hit in future years.