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View Brad Vis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Edmonton Centre for sharing his time with me today.
All of us in the House, irrespective of party, share probably two key things in common: We collect big paycheques from the taxpayer, and our constituents speak to us about infrastructure probably every single week. How are these two facts related? Canadians pay a lot of taxes and expect their government to work for them. They expect all of us in the House, irrespective of party, to work for them as well.
Unfortunately, we all know that government does not always work for the people who pay for it. The same goes for the House. Therefore, today I am here to push. I am here to urge our ministers to demand their departments and the public service move forward and get infrastructure built, to provide the services we as Canadians collectively need and to do so in a transparent manner.
As my colleague, the MP for Mégantic—L'Érable, stated in his motion, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has reported that budget 2018 provides an incomplete account of the changes to the government's $186.7-billion infrastructure spending plan and that the PBO requested the new plan, but it does not exist.
Will budget 2020 contain a new and transparent plan? I can say that members on this side of the House are not holding our breath. However, I am not losing hope. That is why we are calling on the Auditor General to immediately audit the Liberal government's investing in Canada plan including, but not limited to, verifying whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises, and that the Auditor General report his findings to the House within one year.
In my riding of Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, the District of Mission has been working tirelessly to replace its aging sanitary sewer pipe that crosses beneath the Fraser River to a treatment plant in Abbotsford.
Close to 50,000 people rely on this critical piece of infrastructure. However, the existing pressurized pipe is over 30 years old. It is at capacity and at risk of failure. According to the district's engineers and staff, it is not a question of if but when this pipe fails.
The environmental impact of raw sewage lining the banks of the Fraser River would be unprecedented. It would affect millions of British Columbians, not to mention the devastation that would be done to our five iconic Pacific salmon species.
In 2017, the District of Mission was allocated $6.9 million from senior levels of government through the clean water and waste water fund. However, as has been the case for infrastructure projects across the country, only a small portion of that funding was actually transferred to the district.
As a result of years of Liberal dithering, construction costs have skyrocketed. Government reviews at the federal and provincial levels have bogged down the process with red tape, and people are really frustrated.
Therefore, right now I am asking, and have thanked the hon. parliamentary secretary earlier today, for an immediate cash injection and intervention by the federal government to see the Mission sanitary sewer crossing project through to completion.
Sanitary sewers are an essential service for growing communities everywhere and ensure our environment is protected for future generations. I cannot stress enough the importance of moving quickly on this infrastructure issue.
Another big issue in my riding in the community of Abbotsford is the expansion of Highway No. 1. It connects the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley to the rest of the province and our country, and has required expansion for decades. This two-lane stretch of highway sees over 40,000 users per day and motor vehicle accidents have soared to over 1,000 per year. According to ICBC, between the years 2015 and 2017, the number of motor vehicle accidents from Langley to Chilliwack doubled, to 1,100.
With traffic volumes already exceeding peak capacity, Highway No. 1 poses an alarming risk to travellers, especially in a disaster scenario where the Abbotsford International Airport would have to support the entire region as the alternate to the Vancouver International Airport.
As a result of the positive growth and increase in capacity at our ports, truck traffic volume has also increased, commuter numbers have risen and people are bogged down in traffic every day. I hear more about highway congestion than any other issue in my riding.
Speed, incidentally, is what the Liberal government promised and announced in budget 2016. In phase one of the government's new infrastructure plan, it was supposed to focus on short-term economic stimulus. Well, we are in 2020 now and nothing has happened. In fact, my colleagues and I met with the Parliamentary Budget Officer's staff yesterday, who shockingly indicated that not only had the government's key objectives not been achieved, but the Liberals have no way of tracking their current progress on infrastructure spending.
Communities across my riding in British Columbia have applied for infrastructure funding, many under the community, culture and recreation infrastructure program, the last deadline of which was January 23, 2019, over a year ago.
How can infrastructure programs supposedly designed to provide immediate economic stimulus take over a year to process? Just what exactly are the federal and provincial ministries doing? How many times are applications being shuffled from a desk in Victoria to a desk in Ottawa and back again?
The District of Lillooet asked me to support the needed improvements to their hockey rink. They need to replace the ammonia refrigeration ice plant at their rec centre with a safer carbon dioxide refrigeration plant. Cache Creek is still recovering from devastating floods in 2017. Harrison Hot Springs needs its Miami River lift station upgraded, another sewage sanitary project. Agassiz needs support for an indoor pool. Their only pool is outdoors and 40 years old. The Village of Lytton and, in fact, all of the rural communities that I represent in Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon need infrastructure for broadband Internet. The list of infrastructure projects requiring federal support goes on and on, and I am not unaware that this is the case in every other riding as well.
Sadly, the mishmash of programs, red tape and bureaucratic hoops is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for small and rural municipalities to navigate. The PBO reports that the investing in Canada plan consists of over 50 individual government funding programs administered by 32 government departments and agencies and that, using public documents, it is literally impossible to reconcile the taxpayer money that has been allocated with the money that has been spent. Asked to describe the situation, as I mentioned in the House earlier today, the PBO said it is an octopus across government with serious information gaps. To boot, many of the Liberals' priorities for this funding defy logic.
Take the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for instance, where the Liberal government signed over $256 million to this Beijing-controlled entity. Somewhat closer to home, consider the Canada Infrastructure Bank, where finance minister Morneau has confirmed that small municipalities, the municipalities I represent, will not benefit since global investors will only invest in large transformational projects that produce a revenue stream from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investment. Small and medium-sized municipalities in rural Canada are nonetheless out of $15 billion in infrastructure funding to pay for it.
In conclusion, the Trudeau Liberals' so-called infrastructure plan has been a failure today, and the PBO predicts continued failure. Deficits have risen to staggering levels, yet Statistics Canada's infrastructure economic account shows almost no increase in infrastructure spending in Canada. Between 2015 and 2018, the most recent years available, annual inflation-adjusted infrastructure investment went from $70.7 billion to $71.5 billion. That is only $0.8 billion annual increase in infrastructure, despite a staggering $35 billion in infrastructure spending allocated over a three-year period. Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve to know where their money is being used and how it is being used to effectively to serve them and that it is not being lost in a bureaucratic maze.
Let us let the Auditor General do his work, audit the infrastructure program and increase transparency over how taxpayer dollars are spent to improve our communities.
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