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Town turned down again for funding

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FORT FRANCES—After being turned down two years in a row for Canada-Ontario Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF) money to reconstruct the Portage Avenue underpass, Fort Frances joined many other regional municipalities in being denied funding again this year—this time for a different project.

Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said Thursday morning the town had submitted an application back in September for funding to replace the sewer, water, and storm sewer infrastructure along Second Street East between Portage and Central Avenue.

“That’s a bad stretch of road that’s deteriorated,” noted Brown. “We know we have problems with the sewer system there. In the old days, they used to put in a lot of laterals that aren’t capped properly, and it shows up.

“It’s still an issue.”

This sewer and water project, estimated to cost $1.2 million, would have seen 400 metres of piping replaced on that two-block stretch of Second Street East, as well as resurfacing of the street after the in-ground work was completed.

If Ottawa and Queen’s Park had approved the application, the town only would have had to pay one-third of that cost (about $400,000).

Without the COMRIF funding, Brown noted the town will not be doing this project this year, but instead focus on the underpass, and sewer, water, and road repair work on Central Avenue, and Scott Street from Central to Mowat Avenue.

Fort Frances isn’t alone in once again being denied COMRIF funding.

And in fact, local MP Ken Boshcoff has charged the infrastructure fund has been deliberately politicized by the federal Conservative government—openly accusing it of using the fund to disproportionately favour Conservative-held ridings.

Of the total $46.4 million funding delivered in 2007, $40.5 million was awarded to Conservative-held ridings, noted Boshcoff. In 2006, of $117.8 million in total funding, no less than $100.5 million was allocated to Conservative ridings.

In the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding, just two applications—for projects in Oliver Paipoonge and Thunder Bay—were approved totalling just over $703,000.

Meanwhile, applicants including Fort Frances, Rainy River, and Neebing, along with the Local Roads Boards of Northern Light Lake and Lybster, once again were unsuccessful.

COMRIF—a partnership between the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario—was introduced by the former federal Liberal government in 2004 to improve and renew public infrastructure in communities with populations of less than 250,000.

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