Community improvement funds welcome

I have been known to publicly complain about the low level of funding provided to rural communities. It’s one of those broken record things, like whining about the weather or cuts to federal agriculture funding.

I therefore feel it is incumbent upon me to positively note that the Stephen Harper government, through Western Economic Diversification, is offering $46.2 million over two years for the new Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

It is part of a national program totalling $150 million, which will be delivered through regional agencies. The fund supports repairs and improvements on a cost-shared basis to existing community infrastructure if it is open and accessible to the public.

This is, of course, entirely reasonable and exactly what governments should be doing: supporting public infrastructure, even at the community centre or town rink level. This is where people gather, which is socially healthy, or exercise, which is physically healthy. You always have to consider the long-term, intangible benefits.

Even though CIIF seems like a good idea, I didn’t promise not to whine about insufficient funding at all.

While $150 million is nothing to sneeze at, I still wonder at the fairly puny amounts doled out to infrastructure support.

If you break it down, the western portion of $46.2 million will be spread out among communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, which amounts to about $11.5 million per province, or slightly less than $6 million per funding year — although I doubt it will work out evenly.

These funding things are often based on provincial or regional populations. For context, the southern Ontario CIIF allocation is $49.6 million — more than applied to all four western provinces together.

How many roofs can you partially replace this year for $6 million? Mine cost $6,000, and it just covers my bungalow.

The craziest thing about this fund, though, is the fast-approaching deadline of Aug. 2.

If your local, regional or First Nation government wants to apply, it better hurry. Since this is a federal program, I suspect there is paperwork involved.

The project must be completed by March 31, 2014. If you want a little piece of this small but tasty pie, you better get your skates on.

editorial notebook

Community improvement funds welcome

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