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Town of Westlock concerned as provincial holdout could delay federal funding for municipalities

CAO says reserves will carry them through, while waiting new CCBF agreement
The Town of Westlock says it has sufficient reserves to carry them through while the province and the federal government continue negotiating a new 10-year CCBF agreement. File photo

WESTLOCK — The Town of Westlock and other municipalities in the province, could see a delay in Canada Community-Building Fund payments, according to a letter sent out by Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver in June.

The letter, dated June 14 was included in the agenda package for the Town of Westlock’s regular council meeting scheduled for June 24, but was postponed until July.

The letter says the province is in “active negotiations with the Government of Canada on a 10-year renewal agreement that will cover the 2024-2034 period.”

The Canada Community-Building Fund (CCBF), formerly called the Gas Tax Fund, is a major source of federal grant funding municipalities rely on to pay for infrastructure projects such as local road and bridge repairs, new recreation amenities, public transit, wastewater infrastructure, highways, and fire halls.

Although Town of Westlock CAO Simone Wiley said a delay in the town receiving the annual allocation will not have an impact on capital projects this year, she did express concern if negotiations are not resolved.

“Obviously any time that we have to wait because the province and the federal government are in negotiations, if we have to draw money out of reserve, that’s money that we’re not making money on, because we’re having to utilize it to cover funds that we should be receiving from the federal government, via way of the province,” said Wiley. “We certainly have concerns with that.”

She said the town does “have the ability to bridge the financial gap until an agreement is reached,” and noted how the town’s reserves will help with that.

“We’ve worked really hard over the last number of years to ensure that our reserves are sufficient, so that if we are in a position of waiting on money, even for an extended period of time, we can utilize our general reserve to carry us through without those dollars until we receive them,” said Wiley, pointing to the town’s reserve lists (as noted in the town’s audited financial statement) as of Dec. 31, 2023 included reserves of varying amounts including a building reserve of $785, 743, recreation reserve of $301, 221 and general operating reserve of $240,549.  

In 2023 the CCBF allocation for the Town of Westlock was $319,331, which Wiley said “typically we’ve been using those (funds) for road projects,” but could not confirm the types of projects the CCBF funding was used for in 2023.  

To date, agreements to renew the CCBF have been signed with Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and negotiations with all other provinces and territories are ongoing.  

As signaled in Budget 2022, the government’s goal is to create flexibility within federal infrastructure programs to tie access to infrastructure funding to actions by provinces, territories, and municipalities to increase housing supply where it makes sense to do so. This flexibility would be included in the renewed Canada Community-Building Fund agreements and other future infrastructure programs.

Caleb Spassov, a spokesperson for Housing, Infrastructure, and Communities Canada, the federal department that administers the CCBF, said in an email that one new aspect of the long-term agreements is that the federal government is tying funding “to actions by provinces, territories, and municipalities to increase housing supply where it makes sense to do so.”

Spassov said the department couldn't comment further since negotiations with the province are ongoing.

“The federal government has committed $26.7 billion over the next ten years to renew the Canada Community-Building Fund, and we are continuing to work with our partners across the board to ensure that those funds will go towards meaningful investments in core infrastructure and local priorities,” said Spassov.  

Unless the ongoing negotiations between the Alberta government and the federal government result in a change in funding, Alberta is expected to receive $265.1 million in CCBF funding in 2024-2025, followed by $276.2 million in 2025-2026.

-with files from Jack Farrell  

[email protected]

Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
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