Canadian families and businesses rely on municipal and provincial transportation networks, police services, recreation facilities, clean water, sanitation, a vast array of local and provincial services, and far beyond. Municipalities manage nearly 60 percent and provinces 38 percent of the public infrastructure that drives our economy and quality of life.[1]

In recent years, all orders of government in Canada have increased their investments in infrastructure. Provinces, territories and municipalities, which own the vast majority of core public infrastructure (such as roads, bridges, transit systems, water and wastewater systems and culture, sport and recreation infrastructure) (Figure 2), collectively doubled their investments between 2003 and 2013, from $14.5 billion to $29.5 billion.[3]

But even as we embrace change, what hasn’t changed is an outdated fiscal and legislative framework that limits our potential; and a mismatched strategic planning process to give vision and direction to this potential.[4]Municipalities are now also faced with the devastating economic and social impacts of COVID-19. Developing a coordinated provincial-municipal infrastructure strategy provides an opportunity to access federal infrastructure funding for critical projects that will support the recovery and future growth of our regional districts.

Background

Municipally owned infrastructure assets include but are not limited to:[5]

  • Water systems;
  • Roads and bridges;
  • Buildings;
  • Sport and recreation facilities; and
  • Public transit.

Provincially owned infrastructure assets include but are not limited to:

  • Provincial highways, bridges and tunnels;
  • Electricity transmission and distribution lines; and
  • Public transportation

Infrastructure demand has outpaced investments for several decades. In 2013, estimates ranged from $50 billion to $570 billion depending on the methodology used. There is consensus among Canadian municipalities that significant investments are needed to address the infrastructure gap. The additional $95.6 billion in federal support announced in Budgets 2016 and 2017, including more than $7.6 billion for Indigenous communities, along with significant investments in infrastructure by other orders of government, will help to close the gap while also supporting longer term investments to address emerging challenges and opportunities.[6] Starting in 2018-2019,[7] Integrated Bilateral Agreements with provinces and territories established the terms and conditions by which $33 billion in new funding will be delivered over 10 years to advance infrastructure projects. 

BC will add one million people to its population over the next 10 years, putting pressure on BC’s transportation and trade corridors.[8]

To fully leverage public investments and eliminate the municipal infrastructure deficit, municipal governments need predictable, long-term revenue. According to the Vancouver Board of Trade, the provincial approach should be to group project priorities, and align provincial priorities with the available federal infrastructure funding opportunities.[9] With aging infrastructure and limited resources, our communities face huge challenges in financing the necessary repair, replacement and upgrade of our infrastructure. The Investing in Canada plan is the Government of Canada’s comprehensive, long-term plan for building a prosperous and inclusive country through historic infrastructure investments. Through this Plan, the Government is investing in people: to enable Canadians to get to work and home quicker and spend more time with their families; to have places to play and stay healthy; to enjoy clean drinking water and pristine environments; and to run their businesses and access services regardless of where they live.[10]

Over the 12 years of the Plan, starting in 2016, the federal government will invest over $180 billion in infrastructure — more than doubling existing federal funding — to achieve three objectives:

  • Generate long-term economic growth to build a stronger middle class;
  • Improve the resilience of communities and transition to a clean growth economy; and
  • Improve social inclusion and socio-economic outcomes for all Canadians.[11]

The Investing in Canada plan differs from previous infrastructure plans — it is longer-term and guided by clear priorities, concrete objectives and, instead of outputs, by measurable outcomes. It offers long-term, sustained funding to enable planning and prioritization by all orders of government. It funds a wide variety of needs and priorities including large, transformative investments, from housing, to public transit, to community centers, to highways, that will benefit Canadians now and in the future. Provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities are key partners. Through the Investing in Canada plan, the federal government’s increased investment in infrastructure will be further leveraged by all orders of government to more than double the reach of the Plan’s funding.

There are 196 municipal governments and 198 First Nations communities in British Columbia. Our communities, industry and businesses rely on our utilities, transportation and power system to sustain our business. Business interruptions due to broken water mains, poor roads, inadequate transit and other disruption causes economic loss to businesses and limits our ability to attract new businesses to our communities. Our communities also face financial challenges from increasing standards and regulations without adequate financial mechanisms to pay for them. The primary resources at the municipal level are property tax. Our businesses pay a much higher tax rate than our residential taxpayers. Significant increases in property taxes are not affordable either for our businesses or for many of our residents.

Our built environment or infrastructure is critical to the economic capacity and livability of our communities and the viability of our businesses within them. Many communities are struggling with competing financial pressures and aging, failing infrastructure. Municipal budgeting processes currently fail to require accounting for future demands for infrastructure upgrades and replacement. Government support at all levels is required to renew our infrastructure as well as assist with paying for new and increased regulations and standards.[12]

The power industry estimates their backlog is in excess of $300 billion for the renewal of the power grid plus unknown generation renewal costs.[13] There is also demand by School Boards, Health Care facilities and Universities and Colleges for public funds for upgrades and replacement along with billions of dollars of assets owned directly by provincial, territorial and federal government. There are benefits to investing in infrastructure for all levels of government.

Municipal governments are essential to identifying and implementing projects that respond to local needs, while contributing to regional, provincial and federal prosperity. However, municipal governments often lack the resources and expertise to deliver productive and sustainable infrastructure in a cost effective and timely fashion. The cost and complexity of maintaining public infrastructure introduces significant risk to the effective use of taxpayer dollars. To alleviate this risk, provincial funding programs should require structured project selection criteria that will ensure value for money and continuity of high paying jobs in our communities.[14]

Provincial projects which are essential to municipalities, regions and the province are announced and planned separately from the work of these municipalities, through two-year service plans; whereas regions such as Metro Vancouver and Translink are currently planning ahead to 2050 and federation member municipalities are required to sign off on these long-term plans and to submit updated Regional Context Statements[15] every five years. To improve effectiveness in planning, a long-term provincial plan would allow for both regions and municipalities to anticipate more accurately upcoming provincial infrastructure investments and align their budgeting processes and work to federal, provincial, and regional goals.

Infrastructure plays a key role in Canada and the Province of British Columbia’s future. In 2018, Canada and British Columbia signed the Integrated Bilateral agreement for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).[16]

The program invests in infrastructure that:

  • Creates economic growth;
  • Sustains well-paying jobs;
  • Builds inclusive communities; and
  • Supports a low-carbon, green economy.

As the nation’s Pacific Gateway, the Provincial government must actively formulate an overarching strategy to prioritize investment and attract federal funds. As communities in every Province compete for funding, it is important that a consolidated provincial strategy is in place to ensure that attention is paid to the needs of British Columbia communities.

The Chamber Recommends

That the Provincial Government:

  • Develop a long-term Infrastructure Strategy (strategic investment planning document) for British Columbia, which is coordinated with the long-term strategic planning processes of the province’s regional districts.
  • That this long-term Infrastructure Strategy include funding incentives for municipalities that are tracking and reporting regularly on the following outcomes:
    • Rate of economic growth is increased in an inclusive and sustainable way;
      •  Environmental quality is improved, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reduced and the resilience of communities is increased;
      • Urban mobility in communities is improved;
      • Housing is affordable and in good condition and homelessness is reduced year over year;
      • Early learning and childcare are of high quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive;
      • Communities are more inclusive and accessible;
      • Infrastructure is managed in a more sustainable way; and
      • Amend the mandatory municipal budgeting process to require identification of future infrastructure needs.

That the Provincial and Federal Governments:

  • Execute as quickly as possible upon notice of Federal funding, the necessary Provincial-Federal agreements to ensure funding continues in a sustainable consistent manner that accrues to our communities for infrastructure improvements and upgrades, (ICIP signed in 2018) especially smaller communities for existing infrastructure, and required upgrades resulting from new regulations and standards.

That the Federal Government:

  • Clarify its readiness to continue a dialogue about a modernized fiscal relationship that empowers municipalities with tools to tackle a broad range of locally-defined priorities—efficiently, cost effectively and with robust planning horizons.
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[1] Federation of Canadian Municipalities A critical time to deliver to Canadians Recommendations for Federal budget 2019, pg 2

[2] Statistics Canada. “Table 031-0005 — Flows and stocks of fixed non-residential capital, by industry and asset, Canada, provinces and territories, annual (dollars).” CANSIM (database). Statistics Canada, Government of Canada, 2017, http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=310005. Accessed: 18 December 2017.

[3] Infrastructure Canada. “2015–2016 Departmental Performance Report, Section III: Analysis of Programs and Internal Services.” Infrastructure Canada, Government of Canada, 2016, http://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/pub/ dpr-rmr/2016/2016-03-eng.html. Accessed 14 February 2018.

[4] Federation of Canadian Municipalities A critical time to deliver to Canadians Recommendations for Federal budget 2019 – 2018 Report, page 2

[5] Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2016) Informing the Future: Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, page 5

[6] Infrastructure Canada: Investing in Canada Plan Report April 2018, page 11

[7] https://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/pub/dp-pm/2018-19/2018-02-eng.html#_ftnref3 Accessed: 28 February, 2020

[8] https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/full-text-2020-b-c-speech-from-the-throne-1.4807612 Accessed: 4 February, 2020

[9] Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Provincial Infrastructure Strategy position 2016

[10] Infrastructure Canada: Investing in Canada Plan Report April 2018, page 4

[11] Infrastructure Canada: Investing in Canada Plan Report April 2018, page 4

[12] Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2016) Informing the Future: Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, page 6

[13] Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2016) Informing the Future: Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, page 6

[14] Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Value for Money for Infrastructure Projects position 2016

[15] http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/metro-vancouver-2040/context-statements/Pages/default.aspx Accessed: 28 February, 2020

[16] www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/funding-engagement-permits/funding grants/investing in Canada infrastructure program