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View Matt Jeneroux Profile
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
2020-01-28 13:08 [p.566]
Madam Speaker, I would like to note that I am splitting my time with the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.
Before I get into my speech, I want to correct the record. The President of the Treasury Board just indicated that FCM is absolutely thrilled with the party on the other side. I would say there is a lot of hesitation from the mayors, counsellors and reeves I have spoken to across the country. They are quite disappointed in the way that money has flowed from the government and think that the government's communication back and forth on when exactly they will get that money has been a problem. I am sure he would be happy to accept my correction to the record.
Infrastructure impacts all Canadians on a daily basis. It is the roads we drive on, the public buildings we use and the parks we bring our children to. It is a large component of any government's budget, yet the current government seems unsure of how much funding has gone out the door to support infrastructure development.
In 2015, the Liberals promised that they would run modest deficits of less than $10 billion over the two years that followed and make historic investments in infrastructure. They have already failed on the modest deficits front. The deficit this year alone is estimated to be more than $26 billion. The government does not seem to have a plan to get the budget back to balance, but that is a different debate for a different day.
The government introduced the investing in Canada plan, a $188-billion plan to update infrastructure based on the priorities the government had. The government failed to work with the provinces to ensure they were shared priorities. Almost right away there were problems with the plan.
A March 2018 report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that only half of the spending promised to be invested in infrastructure had been tied to projects. After this finding was published, the government shuffled its cabinet and the next minister of infrastructure was urged in his mandate letter to stop the current lag with regard to infrastructure projects and get more money out the door. The government knew it was failing to meet expectations.
Reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer kept coming. Another report found provinces were not investing as much in infrastructure as the federal government had estimated. This is a result of the federal government's not consulting with provinces when developing its investing in Canada plan.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer also ran into roadblocks when conducting research for its reports. After a request, Infrastructure Canada was unable to provide the data requested regarding a list of all the specific project commitments under the investing in Canada plan.
That is why we need the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the government's plan. The department that should have a thorough list of all the projects in its own plan cannot provide it. Canadians deserve to know how their money is being spent.
I have seen first-hand how the incompetence of the government's infrastructure plan has been impacting Canadians. For the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to travel across Canada and visit mayors and counsellors in rural and urban municipalities. I have spoken to municipal leaders from all provinces and territories to get their feedback on the current infrastructure plan.
One of the biggest things I heard during these discussions was that money needed for crucial infrastructure was stuck in Ottawa and that the federal government is not listening to local concerns. This Ottawa-knows-best approach is not working for municipalities. We need to streamline infrastructure and need a government that acts in the best interest of local communities on matters of infrastructure.
Many of these municipal representatives told me that they have yet to see any promised infrastructure funding flow into the areas. They have put in the requests and sometimes do not even hear back from the federal government. Mayors and counsellors want more control over their projects. They want to decide what gets done instead of having bureaucrats, sometimes thousands of kilometres away, choose what to prioritize.
Many of the municipalities I consulted have said online application forms to receive infrastructure spending are so complicated that some have even given up entirely. Imagine having the sole beneficiaries of funding not even bother to apply for funding because it has been made too difficult. Instead, these municipalities are looking for other sources of funding to get their projects built.
The government also founded the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a $35-billion agency designed to attract private investors to create public infrastructure projects. Despite costing so much money, we have seen very little in the way of announcements from the bank. In fact, the first announcement from this bank came more than two years after its establishment and it was just a reannouncement of funding that the government had already pledged.
Despite not accomplishing much, the infrastructure bank has had no problem asking for more money from the federal government to cover salaries, legal services, travel and other expenses. Announcements from the bank are sparse and the government has not yet been transparent about what the bank is actually achieving for Canadians.
Not all Canadians will even benefit from the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The finance minister confirmed that small municipalities will not benefit because investors will look to invest only, in his words, in “large transformational projects” that Maclean's notes will “produce a revenue stream, from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investment.” As well, the bank will only provide funding to projects worth $100 million or more, virtually guaranteeing that rural communities across Canada will not qualify, while small and medium-sized municipalities are losing $15 billion of infrastructure money to pay for the bank.
It is clear that the government is not listening to Canadians and is being unresponsive to concerns about the investing in Canada plan. Instead, it is continuing to forge ahead with a plan that has very obvious shortcomings.
The government knows its plan is failing too. In budget 2019, Liberals allocated a $2.2-billion top-up in municipal transfers to fund short-term infrastructure projects for the year, which, as we all know, happened to be an election year. This was despite having the previous four years in government to address delays in delivering this much-needed infrastructure.
I am anticipating that some of my colleagues across the aisle will accuse our party of wanting to cut infrastructure funding, but that is simply not true. Our previous government's record speaks for itself. Our economic action plan approved and announced $12 billion in infrastructure projects in three years of government during the worst economic crisis in a generation. We understand how important infrastructure is to Canadians. We understand the need to get dollars out the door as quickly as possible so projects can be completed in more reasonable time lines. Cutting infrastructure funding is not in our country's best interest.
The government also promised that the investing in Canada plan would stimulate the economy. The Liberals promised they would raise the level of real GDP by up to 1% in the 2017-18 fiscal year. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that there was no increase in the level of real GDP from infrastructure in Canada.
Their record on infrastructure is one of failure. They failed to match infrastructure funding with projects preferred by the municipalities. They failed to keep the deficits modest. They failed to grow the economy in the way that they promised to Canadians. They failed to be accountable and transparent.
When asked for details about the program, they cannot provide them. The department itself has an idea of how many infrastructure investments have been made. The Parliamentary Budget Officer could not get the facts. We have no idea how billions of dollars in taxpayer money is being spent.
The Auditor General must audit the investing in Canada plan to verify whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises. My guess is that it is not.
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