Home Business & Economy Infrastructure Growing Communities Fund shovels $1 billion out the door

Growing Communities Fund shovels $1 billion out the door

Local governments will find out their funding allocations at the end of March.

map, west shore
The populations of Langford and Colwood in particular have been growing quickly. [map]

Friday February 10, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Last updated 4:20 pm]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

The province has a surplus in this fiscal year. Before fiscal year-end rolls around next month, Premier David Eby has made a significant announcement today to see all communities around BC benefit by funding new infrastructure and amenities.

“One billion dollars in new grants will be going to local governments in B.C. to help build community infrastructure and amenities to meet the demands of unprecedented population growth,” is the government’s announcement today.

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BC Growing Communities Fund announcement in Surrey, BC on Feb 10, 2023. [BC Govt]

“Local governments are working hard to support their growing communities, but they can’t do it alone,” says a Ministry of Municipal Affairs spokesperson.

The Ministry says it will formally contact local governments at the end of March with their funding allocations.

The government did not specify as to whether funding will be by population or determined along with other factors related to current infrastructure status and/or expected population growth in any given area.

Population growth factor:

david eby, premier
Premier David Eby, Feb 9, 2023 in the BC Legislative Assembly. [livestream]

“B.C.’s strong economy and natural beauty continue to attract people from across Canada and around the world,” the Premier said today. In recent months both he and a few of his Cabinet ministers have commented on the pressures of an increasing population: 100,000 more people last year, and at least 80,000 this year.

People hear good things about BC and the population keeps growing.

The Premier said today that “we want to make sure they’re responding to the growth we’re seeing in our province, as people come to British Columbia and join us”. With a climate change impact as well, BC communities “need to be better prepared”, the Premier said in a media session.

“Cities and towns need support to build thriving, livable communities,” said Eby.“The new Growing Communities Fund will help local municipalities improve roads, build more arenas and water facilities, and improve recreation options for families.”

It’s politically interesting that the new Finance Minister Katrine Conroy was not involved in this announcement today. She is likely still getting her feet wet with the massive complexities of the Finance file. The current financial surplus has happened under former Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s watch. Cabinet roles for many Ministers and MLAs were shifted back on December 7, 2022 when Eby took over the Premier’s job.

Capital region and West shore:

Here in the capital region, CRD Chair Colin Plant (a municipal councillor in Saanich) posted on Twitter that the fund is “great news for Saanich, Greater Victoria and all of the Capital regional district. “We need to be partners with the province on creating livable communities! This investment is greatly appreciated!”

In the west shore, this will be welcome news for Langford, Colwood, and Sooke where community growth has been robust for the past 10 years.

Comments to come from other local municipal leaders.

west shore, map
The west shore of the Greater Victoria area has been growing rapidly for over 10 years.

Grants to all 188 municipalities:

The Growing Communities Fund will provide a one-time total of $1 billion in grants to all 188 of B.C.’s municipalities and regional districts. The funds can be used to address community unique infrastructure and amenities demands – such as recreation facilities, parks and water-treatment plants, as well as other community infrastructure.

housing, construction, workers
The new fund will help communities prepare for future growth and build the amenities needed to support new home construction.

The funding will help communities prepare for future growth and build the amenities needed to support new home construction, especially with the Housing Supply Act where targets are set.

Former Municipal Affairs Minister weighs in:

Josie Osborne — who held the Municipal Affairs post when first elected as an MLA in 2021 (and is now the Minister of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation), said today on Twitter:

“We’re asking a lot of BC’s local governments to accelerate approvals to build good homes for (British Columbians), and we know they need support for core infrastructure. That’s why we’re making the largest single provincial investment ($1B) in communities in BC history!”


Housing crisis:

“Addressing B.C.’s housing crisis requires a variety of responses, including increasing the supply of available housing which, in many communities in B.C., requires investments in community infrastructure and amenities,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

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Anne Kang, Minister of Municipal Affairs at the Dec 7, 2022 Cabinet swearing-in. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

“Today’s announcement demonstrates a cross-government co-operation to address the unique aspects of the housing crisis in each community, ensuring they can thrive into the future.”

The grants will complement existing infrastructure funding (such as sewer, water and recreation facilities).

Housing Miinister:

“Communities need to build more housing but to get there they must upgrade and expand infrastructure,” says Ravi Kahlon, Housing Minister.

“Whether municipalities are investing in waste water, new roads or community amenities, this fund will help them grow,” said Kahlon today.

Minister of Forests:

“As B.C.’s population increases our communities need support to grow & thrive,” said Bruce Ralson, Minister of Forests.

“Today in Surrey we announced $1 billion to support local governments with infrastructure and amenities needs. Together, we are making BC an even better place to call home.”

Using the surplus:

Funds will be distributed to B.C.’s 188 municipalities and regional districts by the end of March 2023.

The Growing Communities Fund will come from the surplus shown in the Second Quarter Financial Report. The Province is putting this year’s surplus to work for people, to support them now and for the long term.

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UBCM pleased about it:

The Province has heard from local governments about the need for infrastructure and amenities to support their growth. Infrastructure funding programs are routinely significantly oversubscribed. For example, there are six times more requests for funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program Community, Culture and Recreation stream than what is available. This one-time fund supports the priorities of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM).

“Today’s announcement provides the largest single provincial investment in communities in our province’s history,” said Jen Ford, president, UBCM.

“This unprecedented transfer will help meet the needs of growing populations through the expansion of facilities and replacement of aging infrastructure. It will also support climate adaptation to sustain service delivery and safeguard residents from the risks of extreme weather. By delivering the funds with maximum flexibility, the Province is ensuring that they will be directed to urgent local priorities. This shows tremendous commitment from the province and is welcome news for residents in all communities,” said Ford in a BC news release.

As the next annual UBCM convention is not until September, each municipality will essentially have the room to decide on their own as to allocation of the funds without much political influence.

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mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends emerged in mid-2020 from a preceding series of publications by founder/editor Mary P Brooke and published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc, covering news of the Vancouver Island region, BC and national issues through a socioeconomic lens.

The publication series began with MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), then morphed to a weekly print newspaper Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and then into the weekly PDF/print West Shore Voice News (2014-2020). The news at IslandSocialTrends.ca (2020 to present) is entirely online.

Ms Brooke has covered the news of the west shore since 2008, with insight about the impacts of population growth on the development and directions of communities.