As the federal government prepares to roll out its 2013 financial plan, the local government voices singing the dedicated infrastructure funds song are growing louder.
The chorus is in Prince George this week as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities board of directors hammers out the final details of their plan of attack before their May annual general meeting.
Getting the Canadian government to commit to a 20-year infrastructure funding plan to replace the expiring Building Canada Fund has been a nearly singular focus for the organization - which represents more than 2,000 Canadian municipal governments - over the past couple of years.
In her role as FCM president, as well as her time spent as an Edmonton councillor and MLA, Karen Leibovici has heard about infrastructure issues from leaders across the country and seen many of them with herself.
"Though every place is different, the reality is we're all the same in that our infrastructure is aging," Leibovici said. "What we recognize is that we have to be able to put into place a long-term program that addresses the state of the infrastructure from a preventative and rehabilitation aspect, but also builds in the fact we have to prepare for the future as well."
In addition to the extension of the Building Canada Fund and Gas Tax program, FCM is also calling for the development of a Core Economic Infrastructure Fund. The new pot would see the feds invest $2.5 billion in a pool that would be matched by municipal, provincial and territorial governments to a total of $7.5 billion per year.
"Infrastructure is vital - it's the backbone of the economy and goods and services and people don't move across this country if there isn't good infrastructure to allow that to happen," said Leibovici.
Locally, residents are well aware of the lack of funds available to fix Prince George roads, but it doesn't matter how close a municipality is to a major centre or the national seat of government - infrastructure issues are plentiful nationwide.
According to Halton Hills Coun. Clark Somerville - whose town is located on the western edge of the Greater Toronto Area - Prince George roads aren't looking too poor.
In town early for the FCM event, Somerville stopped by Monday night's council meeting to bring his greetings and thank the local FCM representatives, councillors Garth Frizzell and Cameron Stolz, for their help in the organization's infrastructure advocacy.
Ottawa Coun. Tim Tierney said a planner from his community helped develop the infrastructure scorecard FCM is using to illustrate the need for assistance. Over the past couple of years, there have been two large-scale infrastructure failures in his city - a sinkhole swallowing a car on a major highway and a watermain break that nearly coupled a suburb in the middle of the summer.
"I think most cities across the country have realized it's the not-so-sexy items that have to be done like sewers, watermains, things that are typically underground - not ribbon cuttings for buildings anymore," Tierney said. "This is a real, serious issue. I think we're hopeful that we'll see something, but at the same time we do know there's financial constraints the federal government is facing right now."
Leibovici echoed that hopeful attitude, even though the message out of Parliament Hill has been one focused on getting rid of the national deficit in the next two years.
"The most important thing is that the dialogue is there, the recognition of the usefulness of a partnership is there and that we need to build on that to ensure that any plan that is put forward in the future has some of the elements that are needed," she said.