• Advertisement

  • Municipalities receive investment to cope with COVID-19 

    A $1.1. billion investment was announced to support municipal and public transit operating costs while creating new jobs

    Municipalities receive investment to cope with COVID-19 pic 1
    The government of Alberta announced additional measures to ensure municipalities throughout the province can cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue offering services. The $500-million Municipal Stimulus Program is estimated to create 2,500 jobs from projects that will begin construction in 2020 or 2021. Photo by Chris Schwarz

    The government of Alberta is stimulating the provinces’ economic recovery by creating jobs through municipal and civic infrastructure investments.

    “The past five months have been tough for Albertans as we faced the global coronavirus recession, the unprecedented collapse of energy prices, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Albertans are resilient, and Alberta’s Recovery Plan is a bold plan to build, diversify, and create jobs. This investment will provide municipalities with the funding they need to get through this crisis, create good jobs now, and build the infrastructure that will fuel economic growth in our province for generations to come,” said Premier Jason Kenney.

    “COVID-19 has left us with a real unemployment rate. We estimate north of 20 per cent, with hundreds of thousands of families and businesses unable to pay their bills, or deeply anxious about what the future holds,” he said.

    Adding, “It also means that Alberta’s local governments that do so much to deliver important services are facing a financial crisis of their own.”

    In order to protect the lives and livelihoods of Albertans, a recovery strategy for economic recovery was released which included initiatives to build, diversify, and create jobs.

    The recovery strategy includes a $10-billion commitment to building infrastructure this year, which is estimated to create 55,000 jobs.

    “We are doubling down on Alberta’s strategy to make this the most attractive place in north America in which to do new job-creating investments,” Kenney said.

    “I’m pleased to announce that provincial taxpayers will provide municipalities with more than $1.1 billion to build infrastructure and help local governments cope with the COVID-19 crisis while creating thousands of jobs,” he said.

    “The 1$.1. billion includes half a billion dollars that Alberta’s government has already committed in our recovery plan to get hundreds of shovel ready infrastructure projects underway and thousands of Albertan’s working,” he said.

    The remanding $600 million came from a new partnership with the national government under the Safe Restart Agreement which will assist municipalities in maintaining public services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Under the Safe Restart Agreement, Alberta will match $233 million in federal funding to support municipal operating costs, and $70 million to support public transit operating costs. 

    It’s estimated that the $500-million Municipal Stimulus Program will increase municipal infrastructure funding by roughly 30 per cent and create 2,500 jobs.

    Municipalities and Metis Settlements can immediately begin applying for funding to build roads, bridges, water and wastewater treatment plants, and other infrastructure.

    “Even before the Municipal Stimulus Program, Alberta had committed $1.85 billion in the 2020 budget for municipalities,” Kenney said.

    The Municipal Stimulus Program is part of more than $10-billion infrastructure spending as part of the recovery plan.

    The $10-billion infrastructure investment includes $7 billion in capital spending, $980 million for accelerated capital maintenance and repairs of provincial infrastructure, $200 million for the strategic transportation infrastructure program and water infrastructure projects, $600 million in Alberta infrastructure projects, and $1.5 billion to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    “That’s on top of the $15 billion that Alberta’s invested in the COVID-19 action plan to help to get people through the worst of the pandemic, with additional health care and mental health resources, income support, tax, loan and utility deferrals, small business restart grants, support for homeless shelters and food banks,” Kenney said.

    “I know when you think about these big numbers, they are eye-popping, they represent a lot of borrowed money,” he said.

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial deficit for 2020 is expected to be more than $20 billion.

    “Let’s remember that today’s deficits are tomorrow’s taxes,” Kenney said.

    “All of this will lead to a great fiscal reckoning, but right now in the face of the deepest jobs crisis in nearly a century, we must prudently leverage the province’s balance sheet to diversify, to create jobs, and to build and to ensure a strong economic future, because if we don’t get people back to work, if we don’t restore investor confidence and get our economy growing again the fiscal challenge will become insurmountable,” he said.

    “Jobs and the economy must come first, and the best way to pay for all of this and get back on top of the deficit will be to get our economy growing again. That includes redoubling our efforts to cut job-killing regulation and red tape and reducing taxes to make Alberta the best place in north America to start a business,” he added.

    The recovery plan will support diversification to sectors including technology, financial technology, agribusiness, aviation, tourism, and petrochemicals.

     “Through these partnerships, we are creating thousands of good jobs for Albertans by building schools, roads, and other core infrastructure that will pay dividends for generations to come,” Kenney said.