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Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus releases infrastructure policy paper 

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The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), under its strategic priority of infrastructure, has released the 2024 Municipal Infrastructure Policy Paper. This paper covers key infrastructure data and recommendations from across the region. The information will support Eastern Ontario’s municipal policy and program advocacy, applications for government funding, and future partnerships around infrastructure in an effort to help the region prosper and provide more affordable housing. 

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The paper will also shape infrastructure advocacy which was highlighted as a priority in the EOWC’s 2024-2027 Strategic Plan.    

The EOWC said in a press release it recognizes that as the region continues to grow, the demand for essential municipal services also increases. However, maintaining and expanding infrastructure falls on a relatively small and widely dispersed population, creating a growing deficit and an impossible challenge for local municipalities and ratepayers, the EOWC stated in the press release.

“Investing in infrastructure is not just about building roads and bridges; it’s about laying the foundation for economic growth and ensuring a high quality of life for all people across Eastern Ontario,” says EOWC Chairman Peter Emon. “Our Municipal Infrastructure Policy Paper provides a path forward on how strategic infrastructure partnerships and investment in rural and small urban communities can make a significant difference. We cannot do it alone and we look forward to finding solutions with our Ontario and Federal Government partners to address the growing infrastructure deficit to support our region’s growing communities.”

The EOWC said it has identified five key messages it will be promoting. These are that rural and small urban Eastern Ontario is a growing economy that can grow more with infrastructure investment; rural Eastern Ontario communities are major exporters to Ontario and other jurisdictions; there is an upfront cost to growth, creating a burden for smaller rural communities; small, rural municipalities lack the tax base to sustain infrastructure investment and asset management; and innovation is key to cost-effective infrastructure management. 

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According to the press release, the EOWC is requesting that the Federal Government and the Ontario Government partner with municipalities to address the growing infrastructure deficit by ensuring eligibility for programs and funding fits both rural and small urban circumstances. 

Secondly, it requests the federal and provincial governments provide predictable, non-competitive, permanent infrastructure funding streams, as federal and provincial funding programs are often unpredictable and irregular in their timing. 

Further, the EOWC requests that an integrated approach to infrastructure investments be taken, considering the return on investment that is shared by communities and the province, as investing in housing goes hand-in-hand with investing in institutional, commercial, or industrial land uses. 

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It would like to see debt financing options reevaluated for small municipalities with limited resources to raise funds, ensuring that funds are directed towards infrastructure development rather than servicing debt interest. Specific considerations should include higher upfront/advance contributions as well as the contribution to GDP of “local” investments to provincial priorities. 

The EOWC requests the federal and provincial governments work with the provincial Financial Accountability Office (FAO) to ensure that missing/incomplete data that would make their infrastructure reports more robust is provided. Finally it wants the evolution in asset management plans reflected in both municipal and FAO work, and that the FAO compare its methodologies with the EOWC for estimating infrastructure deficits/backlogs. 

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