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City projects face delays if money isn't freed up soon, say mayor and MP

MP Lloyd Longfield said it shows the province is 'not open for business'
south end rec
Projects like the proposed South End Recreation Centre could be delayed further if federal funds aren't released soon. Artists rendering

A delay by the province in releasing federal funds to municipalities is holding up key city projects like a new South End Recreation Centre, the city's mayor and MP both said Thursday.

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield said those delays show that the province is not ‘open for business’ like it claims.

He is calling for Mayor Cam Guthrie to put pressure on the provincial government.

“After several meetings between the Minister of Infrastructure & Communities and his counterparts in Ontario, it is clear to me that the Province of Ontario is not open for business,” Longfield said in an open letter to the mayor he also sent to the media.

He said good projects are being left “languishing.”

Longfield and Guthrie met Thursday morning.

In 2018 the federal government signed a bilateral agreement with the province that would see the province distribute $10.4 billion in federal funding to municipalities.

The money was for four specific areas: rural and northern projects, public transit, green initiatives and community, culture and recreation projects.

The northern and rural project application process opened this week and the public transit portion is expected to open shortly.

But no one knows when the other two areas will be open to applications.

“We can not afford to have this delayed,” Guthrie said. “This has been an ongoing frustration for municipalities.”

He said the city went through the same problem with the last provincial Liberal government in a previous round of infrastructure funding.

“It seems like ‘here we go again,’” the mayor said, adding it’s not just Guelph, it’s all municipalities.

“All municipalities are ready and we implore the provincial and federal governments to get these agreements done as soon as possible so we can get these projects going that are so important to our communities,” Guthrie said.

The city has spent money coming up with a detailed design for the South End Recreation Centre and is now awaiting funding from other levels of government to move ahead with the project.

“That’s just one of many projects,” Guthrie said.

These funds would not be relevant to the proposed new main library, as that project is still several years away. This funding is for projects that are shovel-ready.

Guthrie, who is also the head of LUMCO (Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario), said municipalities don’t want to lose the 2019 construction season due to a delay in getting funds released.

“We need time to get RFPs out for the work, we need to vet that, we need to award the contracts and we need to get shovels in the ground,” Guthrie said.

Longfield said there has been “no urgency from Ontario” to open the application process.

“While the province opening intake for rural infrastructure this week and public transit to open shortly is progress, I am concerned that the slow intake will cause us to lose another construction season and that good proposals from the City of Guelph and community organizations will be left languishing.”