Across Canada, municipalities are working towards building their asset management programs to better manage the infrastructure deficit. In some jurisdictions, asset management activities are regulated, with asset management maturity being used as a benchmark to access grant funding opportunities. However, competing priorities, budget constraints, and limited resources can impede the prioritization of asset management within a municipality. PSD spoke with Jodi MacArthur, Treasurer for the Township of Huron-Kinloss (pop. 7,069), on how the Township has been able to advance asset management priorities throughout their organization and how available funding, like FCM’s Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP), has supported these efforts.

What was the main reason for applying for FCM’s Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP) funding?

We applied for MAMP funding so that we could present a detailed plan on how to finance our asset management project to our elected officials. We needed to show that this work would not add more financial burden to our tax payers.

If municipalities have to take on a “new” area of practice, like asset management, is it common for elected officials in Canada to seek new sources of funding for that work, rather than utilize existing revenue streams?

I can’t imagine a municipality that doesn’t have financial constraints. No one disputes the role of asset management; everyone understands the need for it.

However, because asset management is so planning and study focused, it is sometimes difficult to see the long-term results and value of its practice.

Some elected officials prefer to spend grant funding on asset replacement. Having the MAMP funding stream really put an emphasis on the importance of the planning stages of asset management.

How did you decide what activities to include in your FCM MAMP application?

We had to start by assessing what our needs were and what we could reasonably accomplish in the amount of time that we had to work on the project. It really comes down to timelines and resources available. We were fortunate that we could utilize our existing staff without requiring the hiring of someone to take on asset management work.

However, with that being said, throughout the process we did identify that there was a need for more staff commitment. And, through this process, our council was able to see this. We now have a full-time position committed to asset management planning.

What have you achieved in asset management capacity building since being approved for your asset management MAMP-funded activities?

We definitely have seen progress. While we were working on this, O.Reg 588 (Ontario’s asset management regulation for municipalities) came into effect. O.Reg 588 was a big eye opener; we knew we were going to meet the deadlines of the regulation because of our MAMP project.

The last Federal budget allocated new funding to FCM’s MAMP program (now called MAMCF). If you’re eligible to apply again once the program launches, what activities would you include in your next application?

We would really like to dive into the levels of service. We have had the initial discussion on what are our current levels of service are, but we need to establish where we want to go for the future and the types of measurement tools necessary in order to evaluate that.

Having more funding available will open the doors for us moving forward to work towards better ways of managing our data. We have talked a lot about integrating GIS and work order systems and all kinds of asset management tools, more so than just data collection and inventory tools. We want a more comprehensive system that can help demonstrate the impact of asset management on improved decision-making to council and our residents.

What is the MAMCF?

To help build asset management maturity and capacity at the local level, in 2017 the Federal Government provided the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) with a $50 million investment to fund the Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP). Through a rolling application in-take, Canada’s municipalities received direct funding from FCM to support their asset management initiatives.

Although MAMP funding ran out in 2018, the Federal Government announced in Budget 2019 that it would be providing FCM with new funding through the Municipal Asset Management Capacity Fund (MAMCF). This new $60 million fund will be allocated over the next five years, with FCM indicating that the program will include both direct funding to municipalities and broader training and capacity building initiatives across the country.