Friday, February 29, 2008

Mayor approves federal budget

The federal budget had more positive things than disappointments for Timmins and Northern Ontario, according to Mayor Tom Laughren.
Like many other Canadian mayors, Laughren said he was glad to see that a portion of the federal gasoline tax is being made a permanent part of federal spending with $2 billion per year to be shared by all municipalities.
“We can start utilizing that for other things than just capital projects,” Laughren told The Times.
“Previously, because it was a kind of a year-to-year thing, people weren’t planning on it in their operating budget as an example, so this may be something that we can re-look at how we do the gas tax.”
The mayor says he is also pleased that Ottawa has decided to continue with the Super Flow-through Share Program tax incentive, which promotes investment in mining exploration.
“And that’s a good thing when you look at mining activity and what this does for the junior mining companies here. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Laughren.
The flow-through program was to have expired next month, but the federal government has decided to extend the program for another year.
“I would like to have seen this go one for three or four years, just because it becomes continuous lobbying we have to do, to ensure it’s in the budget, but yes, we are happy with it.”
Bob Calhoun, the project manager for the city sponsored Discover Abitibi intiative agrees it’s good for Timmins.
He says it works to raise “millions and millions of dollars” for mining exploration.
“The super flow through share program is one of those things that people depend upon to get exploration cash,” he said.
“You can’t use it sitting around the office, its for exploration. You must be out in the field, which of course has a ripple effect again because you’ve got drills working, you’ve got people working, you’ve got people staying in hotels, you’ve got all that kind of good stuff going on,” he said.
The federal government has also provided an additional $500 million for municipal transit infrastructure; things like buses, subway lines and streetcars.
It appears the bulk of that money has been ear-marked for projects in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Laughren says he is hoping some of that funding may trickle down to Timmins.
“When you look at a community like Timmins we definitely need transit as much as any of these larger communities,” said the mayor.
“The way I look at it, they just have more zeros in their budget than we do . But at the end of the day, the need in Timmins is as great as the need in Toronto. I think if you look at the spread of our community and the size of our community and things like the price of gas I really feel that transit will become important. There will be higher ridership in Timmins. And that’s going to pose some challenges,” said Laughren.
The mayor added that for every dollar spent on Timmins Transit, only 31-cents comes back from ticket sales. The other 69-cents is subsidized by city hall.
“We’ve got to shorten that gap. So that may help us as well,” he said.
Laughren added he was hoping the federal politicians would have applied more money toward infrastructure.
“When you look at our roads, our water, sewer, the pipes in the ground, it’s a huge challenge for us, from the tax base that we have, to be able to keep up,” he said.
“And you know we continuously lobby the provincial government which tells us the federal government needs to cough up more money for infrastructure,” said Laughren.
He noted that $10 billion of the federal surplus is being applied toward the national debt.
“It’s a great thing to put money against the debt, but I think if you look at the infrastructure shortfall we have in this country, I think there needed to be a little bit more thought of money being towards infrastructure. So that would probably the biggest disappointment I had in the budget,” he added.

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