Canada redirects and accelerates $3.3 billion of infrastructure renewal funding to focus on projects that boost COVID-19 resilience

Through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion in infrastructure renewal over 12 years. This includes public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.

Now, in response to the pandemic economic crisis, the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program is being adjusted so that provinces and territories can use federal funding to act quickly on a wider range of more pandemic-resilient infrastructure renewal projects.

Whether retrofitting schools to allow kids to go to school safely, upgrading hospitals and long-term care homes to deal with social distancing requirements, building new parks, cycling and walking paths to help Canadians get access to nature to stay healthy, active and safe, or disaster mitigation projects that protect against floods and fires, these changes will help get more projects underway faster, and support longer-term goals of sustainable, economically healthy, low-carbon, and inclusive communities.

Our government recognizes that with the health and economic challenges presented by COVID-19, we need to support Canadians to protect their health, improve their quality of life, and create jobs. That’s why we’ve changed our infrastructure program to make it easier to invest in making schools and long term care facilities safe for children and aging parents and to build projects that make it easier for people to get out and exercise and appreciate nature. Canada’s infrastructure plan invests in thousands of projects, creates jobs across the country and builds stronger communities,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

Under a new COVID-19 Resilience funding stream worth up to $3.3 billion, projects will be eligible for a significantly larger federal cost share – up to 80 per cent for provinces, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in provinces, and raising it to 100 per cent for territorial and Indigenous projects designated under the new stream. A simplified funding application process will ensure that projects can get underway as soon as possible, and accelerated approvals will ensure that provinces and territories can address pressing needs in a timely manner.

For projects that can start in the near-term, eligibility criteria in the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s other existing streams have also been expanded. For example, mobile phone and cellular projects are now eligible under the Rural and Northern Infrastructure stream, and inter-city transit projects are now eligible.

These immediate adjustments to existing programming follow discussions with provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities. The changes are designed as short-term measures to address the current situation while we continue to work towards the long-term infrastructure objectives, including better public transit, more high-speed broadband, wastewater infrastructure and clean energy projects.

Infrastructure program expands to support COVID-19 community resilience

To address the challenges faced by communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the over $33 billion Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program now includes a new stream designed to deliver more infrastructure projects during the pandemic by increasing the types of eligible projects and accelerating project approvals. The expanded Program takes steps to address the current health crisis and support economic stability with existing funds and programs.

The new COVID-19 Resilience stream will help communities respond to the immediate pressures and concerns as a result of the current pandemic as well as build resiliency for the future. The new time-limited stream will have an increased federal cost-share for a broadened range of infrastructure projects and a simplified approval process to allow work to get underway quickly while respecting public health measures.

COVID-19 Resilience Stream

Provinces and territories have the option to transfer up to 10 per cent of their initial allocation under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program integrated bilateral agreements to the COVID-19 Resilience stream to benefit from up to an 80 per cent federal cost share or 100 per cent federal cost share for Indigenous projects and projects in the territories.

All jurisdictions have at least 10 per cent of their total initial allocation remaining, positioning them to move forward with infrastructure projects in the near term under the new COVID-19 Resilience stream. It is important to note that the flexibility to transfer to the new stream is an opt-in approach, meaning that provinces and territories can voluntarily transfer up to 10 per cent to this new stream.

Stream funding transfers are subject to certain conditions, such as requiring concurrence by the municipal authorities affected by transfers out of the Public Transit stream, and meeting the Climate Change Mitigation sub-stream 45 per cent allocation target under the Green Infrastructure stream.

To be eligible for funding under the COVID-19 Resilience stream, the project’s eligible costs must be under $10 million, construction must be started no later than September 30, 2021, and it must be completed by the end of 2021 (or by the end of 2022 in the territories and in remote communities).

The COVID-19 Resilience stream will fund the following types of infrastructure projects:

  • Retrofits, repairs and upgrades for provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous buildings; health infrastructure; and schools;
  • COVID-19 response infrastructure, including measures to support physical distancing;
  • Active transportation infrastructure, including parks, trails, foot bridges, bike lanes and multi-use paths; and
  • Disaster mitigation and adaptation projects, including natural infrastructure, flood and fire mitigation, and tree planting and related infrastructure.

Expanded Project Eligibility

Eligibility criteria in the Program’s existing streams has also been expanded. For projects that can start before September 30, 2021, the following additional flexibilities are available:

  • Public Transit stream: now allows standalone pathways and active transportation projects; as well as public sector inter-community commuter transit services; and public sector commuter ferry infrastructure that are not part of an existing transit system.
  • Green Infrastructure stream: also allows standalone pathways and active transportation projects.
  • Rural and Northern Infrastructure stream: mobile and cellular projects under the broadband category; and energy efficiency or reliability projects for communities on established electricity grids under the Arctic Energy Fund.

Faster Approvals

Under the new COVID-19 Resilience stream, Infrastructure Canada will provide accelerated approvals to ensure that provinces and territories can address pressing needs in a timely manner. Provinces and Territories will be able to submit lists of quick-start, short-term projects to Infrastructure Canada for consideration rather than project-by-project proposals.

The application process will also focus on the essential elements required for Infrastructure Canada’s review and approval like asset class, location, description, dates, and financial information.

Amendments to the integrated bilateral agreements will be negotiated with Provinces and Territories in the coming weeks in order to take advantage of the new flexibilities.

Photo of Calgary, Alberta skyline via Pixabay.

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