Local infrastructure dollars delayed

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It’s the middle of May. We’re well into the 2014 construction season. 

The new “Building Canada” infrastructure fund (BCF) was supposed to be up-and-running seven weeks ago (April 1). But not a wheel has turned.

Why? Because of Harper government bungling in Ottawa.

Communities across Canada can’t get access to promised federal dollars for water and sewer projects, public transit and other infrastructure priorities because BCF application forms aren’t yet available. The provinces, who are supposed to manage the process and pick the projects, haven’t been able to get going because the feds held back crucial information until the very last minute.

So much for Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel’s boast last March that “…the entire New Building Canada Plan is now ‘open for business’, ensuring a seamless transition to the new program.”

But it gets worse. The Harper Conservatives have imposed new restrictions on how local governments can use the federal funding – when it finally becomes available. The provinces and other government “entities” will be competing against municipalities for the same pool of funds. And the BCF program has been severely “back-end loaded.”

That means there’s a big cut in federal funding right up front. The BCF has plummeted by 87 per cent – down from $1.6-billion last year to just $210-million for the whole country this year. The feds say the money they’ve cut will be replenished, but it won’t get back to last year’s level until after 2019.

Cutting, stalling and complicating federal support for public infrastructure is simply foolish. It undermines what the Finance Department itself describes as the single most cost-effective tool to foster economic growth and more jobs. And it comes at a time when unemployment is stubbornly high and some 200,000 Canadians have just given up looking for work altogether.

We can do better. Justin Trudeau is calling for a far more ambitious infrastructure plan for Canada – one that will be truly transformative.

Significant new investments will be required and strong collaboration at all levels. But the dividends will be powerful. Canada will be able to catch-up faster on its debilitating infrastructure deficit. We will drive greater job creation and economic growth, and convert the value of low interest rates into long-term capital assets to underpin better Canadian prosperity and productivity.

Ralph Goodale, PC, MP

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada






Organizations: Finance Department, Liberal Party of Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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