Aging infrastructure is a problem

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder shares information about the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Municipal Infrastructure Forum.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) had its annual lobby days in Ottawa, and I was pleased to meet with a number of councillors representing Vancouver Island communities.

I heard loudly and clearly that aging infrastructure is a huge problem.

Half of all municipal roads across the country need immediate repair. I know from my travels across the riding that many of our secondary roads have sections that do need patching up.

Our infrastructure was not built for the increased strain that climate change will place on it — more 100-year storms, more flooding and the potential for more cold-weather events here on the Island.

FCM has joined with a group of business leaders and other national associations to create the Municipal Infrastructure Forum. They are asking the federal government to consider five principles when preparing a new long-term infrastructure plan.

They would like to see secure, stable investments; a plan that supports economic growth; flexibility that helps keep communities strong; a balanced approach with smart partnerships; and a plan that builds municipal capacity.

For our area, I believe the third principle, flexibility, is an important one.

Our needs are not the same as other, larger centres. For example, I have written many times about the need for a transportation service that helped residents travel from community to community at a fair and reasonable price.

Many communities would not see that as a priority, but when many residents travel to other communities for work, medical care, government services and more, inter-community transit is an important part of a sustainable transportation system.

New Democrats believe the federal government has an important role to play in municipal infrastructure projects.

Across the country, mounting infrastructure needs result in $10 billion in lost productivity.

That’s why we have called for an accountable, transparent and non-partisan system to fund infrastructure projects that provides stable, predictable funding.

Investing in municipal infrastructure now, while the global economy is still shaky, is a good way to stimulate the economy.

Instead, the Conservatives have said that trade is the new stimulus.

But depending on selling our natural resources overseas to stimulate our own economy is a risky prospect.

As shown in the stimulus funding from 2008 to 2010, investments in shovel-ready local projects spurred economic opportunity by increasing jobs and local procurement.

Why ignore this success story?

New Democrats are calling on the federal government to listen to the Municipal Infrastructure Forum and make the investment in our local economies by creating a long-term infrastructure plan.

For more information on the Forum, go to The Great Canadian Infrastructure Challenge.