How infrastructure drives our economy

The importance of solid built infrastructure to our economy cannot be ignored.  Earlier this week, the Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli joined our MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal in Peterborough County to announce a top-up fund for small, rural and northern municipalities.  

In announcing the program, which will be distributed as part of the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF), the Ministers spoke to how roads and bridges are critical pieces of ensuring a strong economy.  The challenge is the cost of repairing the current infrastructure to ensure our economy moves forward.  

“Peterborough County has about $75 million in infrastructure repair needs,” said Warden J. Murray Jones, while Mayor Daryl Bennett emphasized the need in the City.   

The top-up application component will allow municipalities to submit proposals for specific infrastructure projects.  This application-based funding is aimed at allowing smaller communities to bring their total OCIF funding up to $2 million over two years to ensure all communities have opportunities to address larger, critical infrastructure projects.  

“By expanding the OCIF, our government has shown municipalities that we are committed to working with them to address critical infrastructure needs in their communities through predictable, stable funding,” said Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and MPP for Peterborough.  

Over the next three years, $670 million will be invested in the fund.  Infrastructure and the gap associated with the needs versus the ability to fix have been highlighted as a barrier to success for business. A recent report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identifies that about half of the infrastructure gap is accounted for by road and bridge assets.  The report encourages the government to spend infrastructure dollars wisely and on projects that are considered trade enabling, from roads and bridges to rail and ports. 

The announcement comes at an opportune time.  Last week Stuart Harrison and I joined a tour of two large operations in Havelock-Belmont-Methuen Township: the ethanol plant and quarry owned and operated by Drain Bros. and the Unimin mine.  Both are doing really neat innovative projects with their businesses.  In the case of Drain Bros. they have found and/or developed uses for many of the materials or by-products so that there is little wasted in their processes.   

Unimin is planning a modernization of its plant to increase efficiency and capability of producing their product, nepheline syenite.  

These types of infrastructure announcements help municipalities ensure that roads and bridges are in good working condition so that companies such as Drain Bros. and Unimin can grow, reach new markets, and offer jobs in their communities.   

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