Newfoundland and Labrador’s financial challenges were front and centre at a pre-budget announcement in St. John’s Wednesday morning.
Speaking about $10.6 million being set aside by the province for capital works spending in municipalities in 2018-19, Premier Dwight Ball mentioned the “challenging fiscal situation” and a need for the government to spend wisely.
(Premier Dwight Ball – Photo by Dave Kearsey)
The Liberals’ announcement showed essentially a steady hand at the tiller, with the money being part of the three-year, $100-million spending plan for cost-shared municipal capital works announced a year ago.
The provincial funding will be added to municipal cash, for a total of roughly $16.2 million in newly approved projects, in 48 communities.
The projects mainly cover upkeep, additions and investigations for water and wastewater infrastructure (after a new emphasis placed on those essential projects by the provincial and federal government), but there are also contributions to road upgrades, town and fire hall repairs, work on the Burnt Islands causeway, breakwater upgrades in Point Au Gaul and even an ice plant for the town arena in Cox’s Cove.
He acknowledged there is an ongoing provincial infrastructure deficit, but gave credit to municipalities for setting aside their share of money required to leverage federal dollars for larger projects, to look toward bringing the demands down over time.
The next provincial budget is coming on Tuesday, March 27. Ball was asked about any particular themes and generally what might be expected.
“You can expect, from any government that I lead, steady as she goes. Stability. Discipline when it comes to fiscal management, but always finding ways to invest in our communities,” he said.
There was vocal appreciation from both Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador president Tony Keats and Jim Organ, executive director of the Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, for the province’s willingness to address capital works spending.
Keats said there has been a change for the better in what municipalities are pursing and the relationship with the government to get there.
“We know where the money needs to go. So every dollar that we get, we put it where it needs to go and not into foolish infrastructure stuff,” he said.
At the same time, he said, there is still an estimated billion dollars in infrastructure work required in municipalities over the next 10 years. It’s necessary infrastructure. It’s water and sewer. It’s clean drinking water. He noted towns are continuing discussions with the federal government as they fall short of new wastewater regulations or are challenged by the costs for required wastewater monitoring.