News that millions of dollars in federal and provincial funds will be spent on a new track and field facility in Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s riding has prompted a Truro track coach to draw attention to his own community’s aging grounds.
Iain LaPointe, a math teacher and track and field coach at the Cobequid Education Centre, says the Truro Amateur Athletics Club’s outdoor track grounds haven’t changed much since they were built in the 1890s.
“It was a state-of-the-art facility in the 1890s, a crush or dust track,” said LaPointe, who is also a member of the Truro Amateur Athetics Club.
Over the years, a baseball field and a football field were added to middle of the track, but LaPointe said other than that nothing else much has changed.
“The crush or dust track is the literally the same track that was built in 1890. We’ve got pictures from 1890 showing the same track,” LaPointe said.
The club has been fundraising since 2015 for $6 million needed for the project.
“We have the largest track and field team in the province and probably the most successful, and we can’t even host a meet on our field anymore just because of the conditions have deteriorated to that point,” LaPointe said.
Last month, a new track and field facility was announced for Bridgetown, in the premier’s Annapolis Valley riding. Ottawa has agreed to spend $1.1 million and the province $2.3 million.
The provincial funding, which came from the Department of Municipal Affairs’s Small Communities Fund and from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, is $1 million more than what is usually provided for similar cost-sharing agreements.
A deputy minister has denied McNeil’s lobbying held sway over the decision to fund the project, and the premier said last week he didn’t pressure the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage to get the funding.
McNeil has said the funding was approved through “the normal process.”
LaPointe said he’s happy for Bridgetown and its new track facility, but said he’s “frustrated that we haven’t been able to access some provincial and federal money as well here in Truro.”
The Truro Amateur Athletics Club has so far raised close to $500,000 from private donors, businesses and corporations, and both Colchester County and the Town of Truro combined have contributed $620,000 and in kind.
LaPointe said the club hoped to tap into some of the $828-million Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program that was announced in April. The bilateral agreement between Ottawa and Nova Scotia would invest the money over 10 years for municipal infrastructure priorities.
“We were told initially they would be open in the early fall some time around September or October and we had got all of our ducks in a row to apply for this money in October,” he said.
He said the club made repeated inquiries about that federal funding, but said in December it was told by the Department of Municipal Affairs that applications weren’t opened yet.
A department spokesperson told CBC News applications for that stream of funding still aren’t open and dates have yet to be announced. The federal funding for the Bridgetown track did not come from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, according to the province.
That fund has four areas of focus: public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure and rural and northern communities. At the moment, the province is only accepting applications under green infrastructure. These projects are related to municipal waste water, drinking water and solid-waste infrastructure.
There is a lot of community support to upgrade the track and field grounds in Truro, LaPointe said.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum with this project and a lot of people who would like to see it happen, and we just really want to grow athletics and keep up with the times here in Truro,” he said.