Moose Jaw looking for more money from Ottawa for downtown

Creating a downtown business improvement district and encouraging the federal government to provide more funding to municipalities to enhance infrastructure are issues two members of Moose Jaw city council want to see addressed. 

Councillors Heather Eby and Dawn Luhning gave notice during the March 25 regular meeting that they planned to introduce motions at future meetings seeking to address the two topics. 

Eby gave a brief description of her forthcoming motion, saying she wanted city administration to consider creating a downtown business improvement district (BID) and to identify a source of funding to launch the initiative. 

Meanwhile, Luhning gave a comprehensive explanation of her forthcoming motion.

Canada has experienced record population growth during the past few years, including welcoming 1.25 million immigrants last year alone, she said. Moreover, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says the country must build 3.5 million additional homes by 2030 to house these new citizens. This would mean municipalities must either build or expand infrastructure to accommodate this growth.

Furthermore, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated that the cost to develop new housing infrastructure is $107,000 per unit, while Statistics Canada estimates it will cost municipalities $170 billion to simply upgrade existing infrastructure, Luhning continued.

While non-residential construction costs have risen by 29 per cent since the end of 2020, municipalities are facing soaring costs for infrastructure projects — along with inflation — without a corresponding growth in revenue or population growth. 

Municipalities are also facing a gap in federal funding because the 10-year Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program has concluded, while Ottawa is renegotiating the Canada Community Building Fund (CCBF) with provinces and the permanent public transit fund comes online in 2026, Luhning said. 

The CCBF — formerly known as the federal gas tax — is particularly important because it provides more than $2.4 billion in annual capital funding to municipalities through a predictable allocation mechanism, she continued. 

Moreover, communities of all sizes use the fund to deliver direct results for building and renewing critical core infrastructure, including water and wastewater, roads, transit and cultural and recreational venues. 

Based on these statistics, Luhning wanted council to push the federal government to work with CCBF signatories and municipalities to maintain the fund and ensure there is a source of direct, predictable, long-term funding for infrastructure priorities. 

Furthermore, she wanted Ottawa to commit in its 2024-25 budget to a new generation of infrastructure programs, including a new initiative to address water and wastewater plants and increases to the disaster mitigation and adaptation plan. 

She also wanted Ottawa to negotiate with provinces, territories and communities on a municipal growth framework to modernize how communities are funded to enable Canada’s long-term economic growth.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, April 8. 

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