'Very large' infrastructure announcements on the horizon: industry minister
Published Sunday, April 5, 2015 9:48AM EDT Last Updated Sunday, April 5, 2015 10:00PM EDT
The upcoming federal budget will reaffirm the Conservative government's commitment to infrastructure spending, Industry Minister James Moore says, adding that a number of major infrastructure announcements are on the horizon.
Speaking to CTV's Question Period, Moore acknowledged the long-time "gap" between the provinces and federal government on the issue of infrastructure.
"This budget will reaffirm our commitment to infrastructure spending," said Moore. "I think you're going to see some very large scale announcements in every part of the country to the benefit of productivity, to the benefit of infrastructure and to the benefit of the quality of life of everyday Canadians."
Moore did not indicate if the announcements would be for new infrastructure spending or would be part of the $75 billion over 10 years that the federal government already committed in the 2013 federal budget.
The 2013 commitment also included the $53-billion New Building Canada Plan for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure.
Moore's comments come as the federal government prepares to table the budget on April 21 – a budget the Conservatives promise will be balanced.
But as the government aims to balance the books, the provinces are hoping the feds will set aside more money for infrastructure.
The provinces say they need more money for roads, bridges, highways, waterworks, transit and other infrastructure projects. Former P.E.I. premier Robert Ghiz recently highlighted that while Canada spends just 3.5 per cent of its GDP on infrastructure, other countries spend more.
In January, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne proposed a multi-billion dollar national infrastructure partnership between Ottawa and the provinces. Wynne said the plan, known as the Canadian Infrastructure Partnership, would invest five per cent of GDP in infrastructure renewal, amounting to $100 billion a year.
Shortly after Wynne's proposal, the premiers met in Ottawa, where they called on the federal government to commit to major new spending on infrastructure. But following that meeting, Finance Minister Joe Oliver said in an email that the opposition parties and some premiers "appear oblivious" to the economic consequences of the drop in oil prices.
The issue of infrastructure spending has been a sore spot between the provinces and federal government for some time. In fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn't attend the premiers' meeting in Ottawa this past January.
Mayors call for greater infrastructure spending
Some of Canada's mayors have also been outspoken in their desire for greater infrastructure funding.
"The water and sewer infrastructure, bridges and roads across municipalities, those kinds of investments are important for the long-term," Berry Vrbanovic, mayor of Kitchener, Ont., told CTV News.
Lisa Helps, the mayor of Victoria, B.C, says that her city's picturesque harbourfront is falling into disrepair.
"Embarrassing is an understatement – this needs attention," Helps said.
"This is an international gateway to Canada – and to the capital city of British Columbia – and the docks here without repairs soon are about to fall into the water," she added.
And in Canada's largest city, the Gardiner Expressway, one of Toronto's busiest roadways, is crumbling and in need of extensive repairs.
"After years of neglect, is this death-bed conversion?" said Ontario NDP MP Peggy Nash.
"Certainly our major cities especially need the help," she added.
The Conservatives have yet to reveal how much funding will be earmarked for infrastructure, but experts say that it may be spread out over time.
"They'll be able to amortize these large amounts over multiple budget years, so the hit to one year's budget is very much small," said Ian Lee, a business professor at Carleton University.
With files from the Canadian Press and a report from CTV News’ Richard Madan