The federal government has delivered the first portion of its promised Gas Tax Fund top-up.
The top-up was announced in the 2019 federal budget. It originally appeared as if the funding wouldn’t come until after the 2019 election this fall, meaning the funds could have been lost if the Liberals lost in October.
However, according to a press release issued Monday by the federal government, that doesn’t appear to be the case. A spokesperson confirmed that the top-up had been delivered to the province.
Saskatchewan received the first of two $31.2 million instalments of the federal Gas Tax Fund for the 2019-20 fiscal year, the federal government announced Monday, along with a top-up of $61.9 million.
“This top-up doubles the amount of money for Saskatchewan communities, based on their allocations for 2018-19, enabling them to carry out infrastructure projects that support the well-being of their residents,” Infrastructure Canada wrote.
The Gas Tax Fund is a long-term, indexed source of funding that supports a wide range of local infrastructure projects across the province.
The funding is predictable but has been enhanced through the doubling of 2018-19 allocations announced earlier this year.
The City of Prince Albert received $2.11 million in its 2018-19 allocation. With the top-up, the city received an additional $2.23 million.
The RM of Prince Albert received an additional $229,024 while the RM of Buckland received $232,649.
Municipalities have several options as to how to spend the Gas Tax funding, including capacity building, sports infrastructure and roads. They can use the funds immediately for priority projects, bank them for later use, pool the dollars with other communities for shared projects or use them to finance major infrastructure projects.
In Prince Albert, the additional money will likely be used to fund necessary improvements to the water treatment plant.
A report last year found that the raw water pumphouse, which takes in water from the North Saskatchewan River, was in “significant signs of deterioration and distress, with some immediate emergency conditions.”
While city staff worked on the most urgent programs, the report said repairs would be difficult to complete on the 100-year-old building. Early estimates showed that it would cost $4.85 million to upgrade the pumphouse, but only about $4.54 million to build a new one.
On Monday, Mayor Greg Dionne said the money Gas Tax Fund money will help the city complete that emergent project without having to borrow much money
‘We’re very pleased that the gas tax (fund) has doubled,” he said.
“It comes at the right time for us because we need $4-million to do the intake out of the river. It means we don’t have to borrow the money.”
Past gas tax fund allocations have been used to build the 11 sewage pump stations around the community and to power them.
“It’s a great savings,” Dionne said.
He thanked the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for advocating for the extra gas tax payment.
“I want to thank them, and of course, pass that also down to the government and Ralph Goodale that I have to thank them. They agreed with FCM and doubled the payment.”
City expecting decision soon on revised multiplex application
The mayor also addressed the ongoing multiplex funding dispute following Monday’s executive committee meeting.
He said the city expects to receive word on its revised application “any day.
“We’ve resubmitted and they’re supposed to make six or seven more announcements this week, so fingers are crossed,” he said.
The city had the only one of 25 funding applications rejected by the federal government for local infrastructure projects earlier this week.
The project was turned down because of the inclusion of a new rink for the Prince Albert Raiders. However, the federal government said that parts of the project could qualify if the city were to re-submit the application.
The Saskatchewan Party and the Conservative Party accused the federal government of playing politics with the money.
However, in the original funding agreement, the federal government spelled out that semi-pro sports teams including major-junior hockey teams were not eligible for that particular funding stream.
The city, as well as Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback, argued that the project should still have qualified as others will also use the rink and that the Raiders are an amateur organization.
The entire facility is also expected to include a pool and lazy river, along with other amenities.