County mayors happy with gas tax revenue from federal budget

Mayors in Wellington County were extremely busy the week that the federal budget was announced, but they seemed to be unanimous that they like the federal gas tax feature.
That means a set amount of federal cash will be allocated for municipal infrastructure – something in dire need of repair right across Canada.
“The gas tax is a positive thing for the country,” said Puslinch Township Mayor Brad Whitcombe, who is with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.  “It was one of the things we lobbied for. They met us part way on that request.”
Guelph-Eramosa Township Mayor Chris White is involved with the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, and he, too, liked the idea of “permanent, long term” funding through the gas tax for municipalities.
He said his township is committed to building roads, and that revenue is “something we needed across the board. That’s the one that stood right out.”
White said the benefit is, when funding is permanent, “You can plan. I hope it will be a model for the province.”
Erin Mayor Rod Finnie said, “Obviously, people are happy the federal gas tax is permanent.”
But Finnie, who has run federally for the Liberal Party, added, “I was disappointed there wasn’t more infra­structure money. One per cent of the GST generates $6-billion across the country. That could have addressed our infrastruc­ture deficit.
Centre Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said the budget was not very inspiring.
“There was nothing in it that was particularly dynamic,” she said, adding, “The gas tax is a start.”
But, she said, the federal government has tied the gas tax to transit spending, which could be construed as buses and subways.
Ross-Zuj said, “The gas tax is a start – as long as they recognize that transit in the rural areas is roads and bridges.”
She was also disappointed that the rural broadband issue the Canadian Federation of Municipalities has lobbied for was ignored. “I was kind of counting on it,” she said of extending high speed internet access to every part of the country. She said it is something much needed in Centre Wellington, particularly since there are experiments with it in surrounding areas like Dufferin and Grey Counties.
She said Wellington County is going to be investigating that issue further, but there were no funds in the federal budget for that.
While a number of councillors knew or had heard about the gas tax, most of them had been too busy during the week to pay much attention to the federal announcements. They had been in Toronto for four days, at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association annual meeting and the Good Roads convention.
For Wellington North May­or Mike Broomhead, who had to steer the budget through county council on Thursday morning, the federal budget simply had to wait.
“I really haven’t had a chance to go over it,” he said. “I haven’t even had a chance to read a Newspaper.”
Warden John Green, too, had been too busy with muni­cipal lobbying work and pre­paring for the county council to take much time over the federal announcement.
“I haven’t got my head around that,” he said of the federal announcements, but he did add, “The federal gas tax – that’s got to be a big advantage. It’s something we have wished for from time to time – some­thing that will benefit us well into the future.
Minto Mayor David An­der­son had heard a little more than most of his colleagues, but he, too, had not had much chance to get into the details. He said the announcement of aid for the auto industry would likely benefit TG Minto, but was short on specifics. “I don’t know if the allo­cation of funds will help the auto industry as a whole,” he said.
Anderson noted that TG Minto is actually expanding its operations even as other auto plants in Ontario have faced layoffs and cutbacks.
Anderson said there is “no downturn to this point,” for the auto sector in Minto. He had some firm ideas about federal support he would like to see. He said the one issue that is common right across Canada is the crumbling infrastructure, and “the way to help is to increase the grants.”
He said part of the problem is federal money gets transferred to provincial government instead of being sent directly to municipalities.