Canadian Underwriter

Government infrastructure, climate change programs ‘have to merge:’ Chiarelli

April 6, 2017   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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Municipalities looking for infrastructure funding from upper levels of government should make sure they have 10-year “asset management” plans, while upper levels of government need to keep in mind greenhouse gas emissions when drawing up their infrastructure plans, Ontario’s infrastructure minister suggested Wednesday.

In its budget for 2016-17 – released in February 2016 – the Ontario government announced a cap and trade program. The first auction, held March 22, raised $472 million in proceeds. In February, 2016, the ruling Liberals said at the time that proceeds would go into the consolidated revenue fund and include geothermal products, low-carbon energy and infrastructure to support zero-emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“We are in the process of harmonizing our infrastructure programs and policies to meet the climate change action plan,” Ontario Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli said Wednesday the Globe Capital conference in Toronto. “Those two items have to merge and they are merging fairly quickly.”

He made his comments during a joint “ministerial address” to Global Capital attendees with Amarjeet Sohi, the federal minister of infrastructure and communities and MP for Edmonton Mill Woods.

“Significant emissions come from buildings and from transportation,” said Chiarelli, who is also the Liberal MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean. “We have to connect the dots here in terms of our infrastructure policy and our climate action plan.”

Sohi suggested that the federal government views infrastructure through “three lenses.” One is creating jobs.

“The second lense we apply is how we can help build inclusive communities … so providing opportunities for vulnerable populations, building social housing, investment in shelters,” he said, adding the third lense is building what he calls “resilient” communities.

“Are we helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Are we investing in innovation and technologies that help us create economies of tomorrow?” Sohi said. “Under green infrastructure, there is a big focus on environmental sustainability, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the quality of water and how do we deal with wastewater and flood.”

Globe Capital was held at the Four Seasons hotel in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood.

In its budget document for 2017-18 released last month, the ruling federal Liberals said they plan to “encourage Canada’s transition to a clean growth economy through investments in green infrastructure.”

The federal government said it plans to spend $182 million over 11 years “to develop and implement new building codes to retrofit existing buildings and build new net-zero energy consumption buildings” in Canada.

In its 2016-17 budget, the federal government announced $5.0 billion in funding, over five years, for investments in water, wastewater and green infrastructure projects. That was part of the first phase of the government’s infrastructure plan to spend $11.9 billion over 10 years.

In its fall economic statement released Nov. 1, 2016, the federal government announced it plans to spend “an additional $81 billion in public transit, green and social infrastructure, transportation infrastructure that supports trade, as well as in rural and northern communities.”

“One thing that we strongly believe in is that the decision-making has to happen at a local level,” Sohi suggested of infrastructure funding from the federal government.

“With respect to municipalities, it is very important that municipalities have 10-year asset management plans, where they can prioritize their infrastructure projects, so that when a program is rolled out federally and/or provincially they can apply for it,” said Chiarelli, a former mayor of Ottawa, in reply to a question from moderator Amanda Lang. “They know what they have to do. Traditionally, municipalities have been very weak on asset management plans. Over the last six or eight years, in Ontario in particular, and some of the other provinces, we are requiring the municipalities to have asset management plans so they will prioritize, they know what they need.”

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