Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The RINC infrastructure programme bears watching

A follow-up to last week's post tracking Conservative MP Helena Guergis' big cheque adventures in her riding of Simcoe-Grey and the bounty being showered upon it to the exclusion of those such as my own. Noted in that post, a big cheque going to the "Pretty River Academy" in Collingwood in the amount of @ $250,000 from the federal government.

The follow-up is the fact that the school is a private one and so the obvious question arises as to how such a facility warrants public infrastructure dollars being spent on it. This question is getting some attention now in the Simcoe-Grey media.

The federal Recreational Infrastructure Canada Program's (RINC) eligibility requirements are as follows:
Eligible applicants under the RInC Program in Ontario and Ontario REC include:

* A local or regional government established under provincial or territorial statute;
* A public sector body that is wholly owned by an eligible recipient listed above;
* A not-for-profit entity;
* A provincial or territorial entity that provides municipal-type services to communities, as defined by provincial or territorial statue; and a,
* A First Nation government, including a Band or Tribal council or its agent (including its wholly-owned corporation) on the condition that the First Nation has indicated support for the project and for the legally-designated representative to seek funding through a formal Band or Tribal Council resolution, or other documentation from self-governing First Nations.
The reports are that this private school is a not for profit entity and that's how it qualifies.

In addition, municipal financial support is required (same link):
b. Cost Sharing for Local Government or Not-For-Profit Sector Assets

Federal funding for local government and not-for-profit sector assets will be one-third (33.3%) of total eligible project costs. On an exceptional basis, the federal share of funding may be up to 50 percent (50%) of total eligible project costs. The federal share of the project, from all federal sources (for example, Gas Tax) cannot exceed 50 percent (50%) of the total eligible project costs.
Given that the town knew nothing about the project until it was announced, it's not clear how that local funding requirement will be satisfied. Apparently a town staffer wrote a letter stating he had no objection to the project but the town council did not approve it. Interesting that staffers have the authority to commit the town's funds like that.

There is an excellent blog post here, at the Blue Agave Forum which further discusses this incident and points out the suspect local approval in this case. That post also points out the public projects that did not get funding while this private school did:
Meanwhile, two major public funding requests from the town for public areas - Heritage Park rebuild and the roof over the outdoor ice rink - failed to get any funding. Naturally people wonder why a private school with perhaps 100 students could get money that a public facility that would serve thousands could not quality for.
That's something citizens beyond your riding are wondering about too.

Are local funding requirements being glossed over in Conservative ridings? How are these local decisions being made? Start watching your papers, Canadians.

(Thx as always to DH, eyes on the ground in Simcoe-Grey!)