Municipalities may be be able to take advantage of a potential influx of federal cash for infrastructure projects.
Mayor Rick Bonnett said in an interview that the recently announced federal budget gives no clear delineation of where federal money is going although municipalities have been told that water and waste water management infrastructure projects will be the focus with $11.9 billion proposed over five years.
He wants to be prepared in the event grants become available. “We’re going to go for what we can get out of it.”
On the flip side of that coin, the 2016 federal budget also projects a $29.4 billion deficit, something that also concerns Bonnett.
One area he feels the town can take advantage of is in the money for First Nations’ education. The federal budget brings $2.6 billion to primary and secondary education over five years starting in 2016-17.
Bonnett said with a large First Nations population in Ponoka there may be a way to bring services and grants to the aboriginal population. He hopes to work with Campus Alberta on the potential.
“Education seems to be a focus of both (provincial and federal) governments,” said Bonnett.
With the economy in a slump, Bonnett suggests getting back to education may not be a bad idea to prepare for the future. But to be ready, for any money coming in the town has to have a plan.
“Everything government talks about is they want you shovel ready,” said Bonnett.
In preparation for these potentials the town has several plans ready to go if needed:
* The Airport Master Plan;
* The Recreation Master Plan;
* A town asset management plan.
“We will dig into every possible program that we can,” said Bonnett.
Something he has heard in discussions for municipalities is to remove the grant programs altogether but provide towns with long-term sustainable funding depending on the population. Bonnett added that is something only being discussed.