CRD board has agreed to send letters to the region’s MLAs and MPs raising concerns that its applications to the UBCM Gas Tax Strategic Priorities Fund were not successful. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

CRD board has agreed to send letters to the region’s MLAs and MPs raising concerns that its applications to the UBCM Gas Tax Strategic Priorities Fund were not successful. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

CRD writing government leaders on Gas Tax fund

The CRD sees major project applications rejected for strategic priorities funding

After being turned down by the UBCM Gas Tax Strategic Priorities Fund (GTSP) for major projects in the region, the Cariboo Regional District is raising concerns with the federal and provincial governments.

“We had an application in for improvements to the Lexington water system and the South Cariboo Recreation Centre expansion and they did not get approved,” CRD chair Margo Wagner told the Tribune Friday.

During its board meeting the directors agreed the board will write letters to the region’s MLAs and MPs about the GTSP funding and the fact it is “dramatically” oversubscribed.

“The applications were way above the amount of funding that was offered and that is constantly happening,” Wagner said.

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson said his city was also turned down for a applications toward a new gymnastics facility and an upgrade for the community’s swimming pool.

There are a number of issues with the way the provincial and federal governments roll out dollars, Simpson said.

“The gas tax administered through UBCM is illustrative of that,” he noted. “It is not enough and the fact that it is oversubscribed all the time shows there is a pent up demand and a catch up that needs to happen and they need to put more dollars into it.”

Simpson said the timing is also wrong and it would be better if the funding was announced in November.

“Even if we were successful, we’re finding out in February, we cannot do anything until March, we would require two to three months to create the actual bid packages for the project we are successful for which takes us into the height of the building season which means we are getting the most expensive quotes and maybe missing a whole season.”

Another problem is that communities that are applying never “really know” what the funders are looking for, Simpson explained.

“It’s a black hole process,” he said. “We spent $150,000 out of North Cariboo Recreation to put two shovel-ready projects together for this last round of the UBCM tax gas funds based on what was successful in their first intake. It turned out this time they weren’t looking for that kind of thing.”

In the CRD’s rejection letter from UBCM, Gas Tax Management Committee chair Gary MacIsaac noted there were 227 applications requesting funding for more than $575 million.

“Of these, 112 projects were approved for approximately $192 million.”

Previously the CRD’s Sam Ketcham Pool upgrade project in Williams Lake received a total of $4 million from the federal Gas Tax Fund.

The federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) is given out twice-a-year to provinces and territories, who in turn flow the funding to their municipalities to support local infrastructure priorities.

Municipalities can pool, bank and borrow against this funding, providing significant financial flexibility.

Every year, the GTF provides more than $2 billion and supports approximately 2,500 projects in communities across Canada.