An Alberta Infrastructure Act, part of the UCP election platform, is being developed by the government to be implemented next spring.
Jim Wells / Postmedia
Legislation to govern infrastructure funding — including transparency around who gets what — will be introduced next spring, Postmedia has learned.Municipalities have not yet been contacted for input, but say it’s critical they help develop the plan.An Alberta Infrastructure Act was part of the UCP election platform. It was sold as a way to be more open about prioritization criteria, establish predictable funding levels and ensure adequate maintenance of existing assets.The party also promised a 20-year strategic capital plan.Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda was not made available for an interview, but his press secretary Diane Carter said the plan will be developed over the next year.She said it will be guided by the pending MacKinnon report into Alberta’s finances and the planned Infrastructure Act.Infrastructure funding isn’t the sexiest topic in the world, but it’s consistently top of mind for municipalities as they pursue reliable provincial cash flows to help build a plethora of projects.Municipal infrastructure support comprised the bulk of the capital plan in the former NDP government’s 2018 budget, taking 25 per cent of the funding pie.Next came capital maintenance and renewal (19 per cent), health facilities and equipment (17 per cent), and roads and bridges (12 per cent). The government also included a list of unfunded projects across the province.‘We’d like to be at the table’Alberta Urban Municipalities Association president and Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita said consultations will be key in developing a workable piece of legislation.More than 60 per cent of provincial infrastructure is in municipalities, he said, “so it makes sense for us to have a significant amount of input into how the plans are figured out.”A big piece of that is transparency. Without it, he said, long-term planning becomes tough.Morishita cited an example in his own city, which has been trying for years to build a wastewater project. Despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on appropriate engineering drawings, it’s still twiddling its thumbs as it waits for word on funding.“To avoid those kinds of things we think transparency is really important, because if we were 53 on the list of priorities, we’d perhaps not spend that money until we were closer to the top 10 or 20,” he said.Morishita said it’s crucial the province listen to municipalities when it comes to prioritizing infrastructure projects.“We’d like to be at the table,” he said.For the City of Edmonton, priority No. 1 is preserving the funding model secured in Bill 32 last year following a long-fought battle.That agreement saw cash for Edmonton and Calgary linked to provincial revenues, with $500 million to be split between them come 2022-23 when the current revenue sharing plan expires.Mayor Don Iveson wasn’t available to speak to what he’d like to see in the proposed Infrastructure Act, but spokesperson Cheryl Oxford said the city must have input.“Infrastructure is definitely one of our priorities, so it would be important (for the province) to engage with City of Edmonton in any of their consultations or planning prior to finalizing any legislation,” she said.That hasn’t happened yet, but Oxford said the city would be happy to give its two cents in terms of infrastructure needs from a strategic planning perspective.Carter said the government hasn’t yet finalized an engagement plan with municipalities, but it’s part of the ongoing work for the ministry as it develops the new email@example.com/EmmaLGraney