By Chad Ingram
It’s clear the federal government will be making a great deal of money available to municipalities for stimulus projects but what’s not yet clear is just how that money will be allocated.
“The question now is how it’s going to be done” said Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale as he visited Minden Hills councillors Feb. 11.
The Liberals have pledged to run deficits of $10 billion a year to help municipalities with infrastructure and attempt to jumpstart the lagging economy. Earlier this month Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the mayors of Canada’s major cities who are crying out for stimulus dollars.
Some are advocating a gas-tax-style distribution of the stimulus funding where money would be divided up among all municipalities based on a set formula that takes population into account.
“That could be beneficial to a number of communities” Schmale said.
Reeve Brent Devolin said he understood it could be as late as April before the federal budget is tabled and Schmale said that was his understanding also.
Devolin also asked Schmale about the provision of Internet and whether there was any indication the Internet will begin to be thought of as an essential service.
Haliburton County councillors recently voted to invest $360000 in a project that will see Bell expand its fibre network in the community. Many county residents are still without access to reliable high-speed broadband Internet.
“It’s very frustrating for many people and I don’t blame them” said Schmale who said he had spoken with colleagues who are also MPs of rural areas and that the next step would be to approach ministers.
“As we all know if you’re not connected to the Internet you’re not connected to the world.”
Councillor Pam Sayne wondered about the prospect of a national housing strategy. Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy.
While Schmale wasn’t sure what would happen he pointed out that traditionally the federal government does one-on-one negotiations with provinces regarding funding for housing.
Social housing in Canada is a provincial responsibility and in recent years more and more housing responsibilities and costs have been downloaded to municipalities.
Since being elected in the Oct. 19 election Schmale has been making the rounds introducing himself to the riding’s municipal councils Minden Hills being the final one last week.
A former radio journalist Schmale served as executive assistant to predecessor Barry Devolin for 11 years.