Quebec giving $2.4 billion to improve municipal water infrastructure
Quebec will give $2.4 billion over 10 years to help municipalities work on their water and wastewater infrastructure.
"We want to repair our water system in Quebec. It's expensive. Our drinking water, we must be careful," said Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest in an interview with The Canadian Press.
This assistance is part of a municipal water infrastructure program called PRIMEAU.
Previous PRIMEAU programs had a total envelope of $826.7 million.
The money will go to water infrastructure projects as well as the extension, rehabilitation or replacement of water mains.
With this program, Quebec will pay between 65 and 95 per cent of municipal project bills.
The program will run for 10 years. Construction costs will be re-evaluated every two years to adjust for inflation, which didn't occur with previous PRIMEAU programs.
"There are projects that didn't see the light of day because the construction costs were not up to date," says Laforest.
A $1 billion budget is reserved for large cities and another $1.4 billion for municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents.
The Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) welcomes the government's new program with some trepidation.
"The needs are so colossal that we will never get all the money. On the other hand, when we see that the sums are growing, it is in itself good news," says UMQ president Daniel Côté.
He explained the challenges municipalities face with their water systems.
"Pipes are breaking all over the place, and there is a lot of waste due to cracked pipes. When they're underneath road systems, with freezing and thawing, it impacts the quality of the roads," he said.
LIMITING THE NUMBER OF PROJECTS
Laforest also wants to limit the number of water main replacement projects municipalities can do simultaneously.
Each municipality will be limited to three government-funded projects at a time. The exception is Montreal, which will have a limit of six projects.
"Sometimes municipalities made too many requests at the same time, and we did not see the work being done [...] It is all very well to make requests, but we must go with the capacity of municipalities to carry out," she said.
This aspect of the program displeases the UMQ.
"Municipalities with extremely large territories should not be penalized on the number of projects they can deliver," said Côté, who would like to see more flexibility from the government in this area.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 16, 2023.