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View Larry Maguire Profile
View Larry Maguire Profile
2020-01-28 15:18 [p.590]
Mr. Speaker, as this is my first opportunity since the election to address everyone in our 43rd Parliament, I want to take a moment to thank the good people of Brandon—Souris for their confidence in me and sending me to Parliament to work on their behalf. There really is no greater calling than to serve and to improve the lives of the people I represent.
During the campaign, my constituents spoke about the necessity to upgrade our aging infrastructure, and I am pleased to be able to speak to this opposition day motion.
Like many members of Parliament, I represent numerous municipalities with aging infrastructure. While most of the municipalities in my constituency are geographically large, their population and tax base are not. They rely on cost sharing with other levels of government to get projects done and to ensure their communities grow in the future. I firmly believe that one of the most important issues members of Parliament work on is securing the necessary infrastructure funding to get things built.
Whether it is the building of a new bridge, renovating an airport, fixing roads or upgrading water and sewer facilities, these are the types of projects that foster new economic development and they ensure that communities have the capacity to grow.
While I disagreed with many aspects of the Liberals' 2015 platform, I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of their commitment to get infrastructure built and funding out the door. After their full term in office, we know that not only did the infrastructure funding allocated in their platform not materialize, but the Liberals blew past their deficit projections. We got the debt without the projects.
Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for West Nova.
The Liberals are now running structural deficits for as far as the eye can see. Worst of all, we now have an infrastructure bank that is not building any infrastructure. One could be forgiven for thinking that this is an episode of BBC's Yes Minister . It reminds me of when they built a hospital for which they did not have any patients.
The Liberal infrastructure bank should infuriate every member of Parliament, as the taxpayers are paying millions of dollars that could be better spent on almost anything else.
In my constituency, the government freely admits that the infrastructure bank will not deliver a single new infrastructure project. It is projected that almost every rural constituency in Canada will see no benefit from the Liberal infrastructure bank, which is another signal that the Liberals are not recognizing or prioritizing the needs of smaller communities.
These perennial deficits and infrastructure delays are not what the Liberals were originally elected to do, which brings us to today's motion.
As I was elected in a by-election in the fall of November 2013, I had less than two years as a member of the governing Conservative caucus. However, in those years, we got things done.
I worked extensively with Minister Lebel and Peter Braid, who was his parliamentary secretary, so my constituency would be ready to get the projects funded. We took the time to consult with all our municipalities and the provincial leaders on our new Canada building plan, and to outline the infrastructure priorities of our region.
We knew exactly how much funding was allocated for each year and the sorts of projects we wanted to advance. Because we collaborated and were well organized, the modernization of McGill Field, which is Brandon's bustling airport, was the first project to be funded in Manitoba under the new building Canada plan. We had a plan, communicated the plan and then implemented that plan. This is how government should operate.
As the vast majority members of Parliament in the House are not part of the executive, we are not at the cabinet table where these decisions are made. We are not privy to the information to which ministers have access. The information we do have does not give us any comfort on how the Liberal government plans on spending the billions of infrastructure dollars it has allocated or at least talked about.
It has now become apparent that it is time to welcome the Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive audit and I would encourage his office to also do a performance review.
In our parliamentary system, we are presented spending bills to vote on. However, there is limited oversight on how funding is spent or how decisions are made. While some may think that members vote on specific infrastructure projects, we are only given the ability to vote on a whole envelope of funding that the minister is able to disburse. We rely on standing committees, departmental performance reports, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General to give us the information we need to do our jobs, so it is only natural that when we do have concerns we ask them to intervene. That is exactly what this motion in front of us aims to do.
While I appreciate that there is a new Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and our concerns are directly related to her predecessors, I hope that she welcomes the Auditor General to audit the programs of which she is now in charge. Anytime a minister has better information in front of him or her, it will undoubtedly lead to better decisions and results. An Auditor General's report would provide all members of Parliament with a third party and independent analysis of the government's performance.
While some Liberal MPs might be hesitant to invite the Auditor General to conduct this review, in the end it should result in more efficient and transparent ways to get infrastructure projects built. Those Liberal MPs who do not find themselves in the executive must never forget that their constituents did not send them here to defend those in high office. They want MPs to ask the tough questions of their own government, even the ones that might be uncomfortable.
We are talking about billions of dollars here. If the department and the minister do not have a coherent plan to allocate that funding for infrastructure projects, all of us in the House deserve to know. We have a responsibility to hold the government to account and demand better. If we take a historical view of what has transpired over the last four years, Liberal MPs must also acknowledge that their own government has yet to deliver what it promised.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is also quick to note that the Liberals do not provide a list of all specific project commitments under their investing in Canada plan and their spending profiles. As he said, “Infrastructure Canada was unable to provide the data.” That is right from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
It also goes without saying that there are some serious apprehensions about the costing in the Liberals' recent election platform, particularly in their infrastructure commitments. It is not too far of a stretch to say that the government's commitment to keeping its election promises is spotty at best. After the Liberals gave the Parliamentary Budget Officer the power to review the various party platforms, their own campaign team did not request that analysis on many of their commitments. It boggles the mind how far and how quickly their commitments to transparency evaporated. Even former minister Sohi, who was the minister of infrastructure at the time, said, “There is an information gap from our end.”
Allow me to summarize how we arrived at this situation and why the official opposition put forward the motion. We know the government did not keep its promise to balance the budget. We know the Liberals set up an infrastructure bank that does not do anything. We know they do not have a plan to prioritize their infrastructure funding. We know they failed to get all their infrastructure funding allocated. We know that the Parliamentary Budget Officer does not have the necessary information to know what projects the government wants to fund. We now have a minority Parliament in which to get motions passed, instead of the bewilderment we had to put up with for the past four years.
I urge my Liberal colleagues to vote in favour of the motion. Our constituents and communities expect us to get to work and put forward solutions to issues that have stalled infrastructure projects for way too long. If we are going to build a stronger Canada than the one we inherited, it starts with getting Infrastructure Canada straightened out.
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