Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/8/2012 (3288 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- The next federal infrastructure program will likely last longer and be far more flexible than the Building Canada Fund, Minister of State for Transport Steven Fletcher said this week.
Fletcher and Transport Minister Denis Lebel have been travelling the country in recent weeks, meeting with provincial and municipal leaders as well as others with an interest in the construction industry, economic development and community development. Roundtables in every province and territory just wrapped this week and Lebel and Fletcher are preparing a presentation for cabinet with recommendations for the next national infrastructure fund.
Fletcher said the tour was to get an understanding of how people saw the existing Building Canada Fund and what they would like to see replace it when it expires in 2014.
"As we all intuitively know, there needs to be more investment in infrastructure," said Fletcher.
Fletcher said Lebel has committed to having the new program in place and ready to go soon so projects can begin in the 2014 construction season. He said the plan's final terms will likely be dictated by the strength of the economy, and whether the government will need to invest in additional stimulus projects.
The Building Canada Fund was launched in 2007 with $8.8 billion. Manitoba's share was about $500 million and was used for projects including finishing the Red River Floodway expansion and the Waverley West arterial road. The most recent project is the expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
Fletcher said the most pressing complaints he heard about the fund were that it wasn't offered long enough and was often not flexible enough to meet specific needs.
"I don't know if they compared notes or something beforehand, but 10 years seems to be what they are looking for," he said.
He also said there were demands for the program to have both designated funds for specific types of projects and funds that offer maximum flexibility, so municipal and provincial leaders can choose how to direct the financial support.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said a complete redistribution of tax revenue is needed to solve Canadian cities' infrastructure woes.
He proposed Ottawa should bypass the provinces and ship a share of transfer payments directly to municipal governments. He said that would allow cities like Winnipeg to fix existing infrastructure as well as begin new construction.
Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president Graham Starmer said he'd like to see Ottawa be willing to foot the entire bill for some projects, particularly in smaller communities that don't have the money to contribute matching funds, usually one-third of the project's cost. He'd also like to see fewer per capita allocations under the new program, noting a province like Manitoba has a small population and gets usually less than four per cent of the money in these programs. That means Manitoba often can't do as much as provinces with larger populations, despite requiring similar amounts of work, he said.
Manitoba's Minister of Local Government Ron Lemieux said he is thrilled Ottawa is getting ahead of the game on this and plans to have a dollar figure ready as early as next spring so governments can start planning. He hopes for at least the same amount of money per year and a program that lasts at least a decade.
The federal government has indicated a desire to incorporate more private investment in the new program, with more public-private partnerships used to leverage additional funds. Lemieux said Manitoba isn't against using public-private partnerships, but said those won't generally work outside of major cities where projects aren't big enough to attract private investors.