Infrastructure funding for municipalities and the need for legislation around derelict vessels were hot topics when Jean Crowder, the NDP MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, visited Ladysmith council last week.
Crowder was at Ladysmith council Jan. 21 to provide an update on what’s happening in Ottawa that may affect municipal government the most.
Much of Crowder’s presentation focused on funding for infrastructure.
“I don’t need to tell you about the challenges faced by local governments around infrastructure dollars,” she said. “The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) was recently in Ottawa before Christmas and were updating Members of Parliament about the pressing needs before local councils and reminded us that for every $1 taxpayers paid at municipal councils, they only get eight cents back, and yet they’re responsible for roughly half of the infrastructure costs in the country.”
One of the things the FCM was asking MPs to support was a long-term infrastructure investment plan and that plan would be 15 to 20 years with secure, stable funding, explained Crowder, adding that the funding would not be project-based because that is a challenge for municipalities.
“As the Official Opposition, we are supporting their request for the long-term, stable funding, and my understanding is the Minister of Transport, Denis Lebel, has indicated that he’s prepared to enter into discussions on a long-term investment plan for infrastructure, so we will be encouraging the minister to work closely with the government in order to develop that plan,” said Crowder.
One of the things the FCM also requested was a need for infrastructure dollars to address the impacts of climate change, according to Crowder.
“Whether you agree what the causes are of climate change, what we know is there are severe weather events that are affecting this planet, and we only have to look at what happened on the Atlantic seaboard and what happened in New York City and parts of New Jersey, and those impacts on that city are going to be directly felt by local government,” she said. “So, we’re also supporting the FCM’s call for infrastructure dollars that recognize that climate change has a direct impact on local government.”
During her presentation, Crowder also touched on Bill C-45, an omnibus budget implementation bill that has some actions to do with Fisheries and Navigable Waters that could also impact on local council decision-making; the Safe Drinking Water Act for First Nations, which Metro Vancouver has asked the federal government to take a step back on and consult with local governments; the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement and issues around procurement and local possibilities to do procurement with local suppliers; and the duty for local governments to consult with First Nations on development applications.
Noting that Crowder has been a champion of legislation around derelict vessels, Coun. Steve Arnett asked about the status of Crowder’s private member’s bill. Crowder’s private member’s bill proposes to amend the Canada Shipping Act to ensure regulations are made to establish measures to be taken for the removal, disposition or destruction of derelict vessels or wrecks.
Crowder told council that she will be trying to ramp up a campaign that puts more public pressure on the minister of transport.
“What I would like the minister to do is actually take that legislation and make it the government’s legislation; that’s the best way to make it happen because as a private member’s bill, even if it gets passed in parliament, it doesn’t necessarily get implemented in the way it’s intended,” she said.
On the subject of legislation regarding derelict vessels, Coun. Duck Paterson asked how the community could help push Crowder’s private member’s bill forward.
Crowder encouraged councillors to approach Lebel and indicate the severity of the problem.
“We know how serious the problem, so if people could emphasize that with the minister, it may make him shift into moving forward with the bill,” she said.
Crowder told council her bill is a pretty conservative bill and is a regulatory change because she couldn’t tell the government to spend money, and there is some question around whether or not her bill is even legal because it would designate the Canadian Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks, so there may be a challenge to the bill anyway.
Following Crowder’s presentation, Arnett proposed that council write a letter to Transport Minister Denis Lebel — copied to MPs James Lunney and Jean Crowder — “strongly encouraging him and his government to move forward with derelict vessels legislation as quickly as possible because it’s so central to the economic health of coastal communities, Ladysmith included.”