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A crumbling legacy

Elmira Independent Editorial

It’s absolutely stunning, when you take a hard look at the numbers.

According to The Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, released recently by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, approximately 30 per cent of municipal infrastructure ranks between “fair” and “very poor.” The replacement costs for this infrastructure alone totals $171.8 billion, on a national level.

Let that sink in for a moment. This is simply municipally owned infrastructure — local roads and bridges — that has been accounted for. This does not include federally or provincially owned infrastructure, nor does it include the infrastructure that is owned by municipalities that have neither the time nor resources to develop a more accurate tally.

This also does not include the problems on our aboriginal reserves, which have their own host of problems regarding crumbling infrastructure.

It’s a massive problem, one facing every government in Canada. Locally, Woolwich Township estimates an infrastructure deficit of $63 million, just for roads and bridges. There has been no overall assessment of the township’s recreation infrastructure, nor of the township’s many buildings, such as local libraries or public works buildings.

It’s a problem that is going to require a coordinated effort between all levels of government, given the limited ability of municipalities to raise funds.

According to statistics obtained from Infrastructure Canada, municipalities get approximately 11 per cent of each tax dollar, but own 65 per cent of the infrastructure. In comparison, the federal government receives 55 per cent of the tax dollars, but owns three per cent of the infrastructure.

Clearly, something has to be done, but it’s not clear that the will is there to tackle this problem.

Locally, we have seen Woolwich Township reduce the amount it plans on setting aside for dealing with the infrastructure deficit (as well as the overall planned tax increase), and federal and provincial governments seem to have enough fiscal problems of their own to even begin to worry about the needs of municipal government.

And taxpayers, who are struggling to make ends meet in a harsh economy, have little desire to support needed tax increases.

That’s why it’s imperative that, at the very least, this issue gets at least some of the attention it deserves.

It’s not glamourous, it’s not exciting, and it’s something we can put out of our minds for a time.

But, if all three levels of government continue to push these infrastructure needs aside, we will be faced with an even bigger problem — and even fewer resources to cope with it.

That’s surely not the legacy we want for our next generation.

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