The federal government is accelerating infrastructure cash to help struggling municipalities taking a financial hit from COVID-19.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the $2.2 billion in annual infrastructure funding for communities, through the gas tax fund, will be delivered in one payment in June. That gives the municipalities earlier access to previously allotted money.
“This is a start,” he said.
Trudeau said the federal government will work with the provinces, which have jurisdiction over municipalities, to provide more emergency aid.
“The fact is we need to do more, and we will do more,” he said.
Communities will have flexibility to use the funds to meet local needs through projects such as expanding access to high-speed internet, improving water and road systems or building bike and walking paths.
Trudeau made the announcement during a news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage. CBCNews.ca is carrying it live.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has said local governments are facing a short-term financial gap of $10-15 billion because of a sharp decline in transit fares and user fees as well as deferred property taxes.
The FCM has pressed the government for $10 billion in emergency operating funding, with allocations based on population and transit ridership.
Cities are also facing revenue shortfalls related to tourism. Ottawa, for example, could lose out on about $1.4 billion due to cancelled festivals, meetings and other events.