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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-01-28 18:01 [p.614]
Madam Speaker, I would like to put things into perspective. The City of Winnipeg recently released an infrastructure program that has established priorities, and I believe somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45 priorities were established. When we take a look at the cost of those 45 projects, it is well over $5.5 billion. That is just 45 projects. If one reads through the projects, one would see that they do not include many of the community streets and neighbourhoods that I represent, or that other members of Parliament represent throughout the city of Winnipeg. It is virtually an endless pit when it comes to just how much money we could be spending on fixing roads, back lanes, community structures and so forth.
If one wants to get a sense of it, one can take a look at this. The city of Winnipeg is not the only community that publishes documents that illustrate how the spending of infrastructure dollars is prioritized. Winnipeg is one of many cities in Canada, with a population of 700,000. One can only imagine the demands for infrastructure in all regions of our country, whether urban or rural.
When I was in opposition a number of years ago, I challenged the Harper government to seriously look at investing nationally in infrastructure. I pointed out the types of deficits of infrastructure in the city of Winnipeg. I believe that back then I even underestimated it. This is nothing new. It has been happening now for many years. The difference is that back in 2015 there was one political party that was campaigning saying that it wanted to invest in Canada. Liberals wanted to invest in Canada's infrastructure. This is something that urban and rural municipalities and many different stakeholders wanted to hear. For so many years, the Harper government was starving the investments in infrastructure and adding to the infrastructure deficit.
When Liberals took the reins of government back in 2015, no one in Canada was surprised that we came out with a record number of commitments toward building Canada's infrastructure. This was virtually universally applied in all the different regions of our country. Back then, there were Conservatives and New Democrats who were more focused on balancing the budget, not realizing that investing in infrastructure builds the economy, and that building the economy helps the larger picture, including revenue coming back to the government. We are the only party that was committed to really investing in infrastructure.
The motion brought forward by the official opposition makes reference to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I have often made reference to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In the Liberal caucus, we have a deep respect for the office, and we have consistently had that respect, contrary to the official opposition.
On March 15, the PBO posted, “Budget 2018 provides an incomplete account of the changes to the Government’s $186.7 billion infrastructure spending plan.” That was part of the concern. Let us take a look at the motion. What opposition members are doing is trying to mislead Canadians through motions like this one. They do not make reference to the fact that the Parliamentary Budget Officer met with the different departments after it was explained to the departments that we needed to be able to provide additional information. In August, another report was released, which opposition members do not make reference to.
The report stated that the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that the original report showed we were delivering exactly what we said we would. The Parliamentary Budget Office was doing its job, as it should, and we were doing our job, as we should. When we told Canadians that we were prepared to commit to infrastructure dollars, we did that.
I listened to the debate, and it has been relatively interesting. Many members on the opposition benches have been saying that more money should be spent on infrastructure. They cite projects. The opposition has come a long way. Now it seems that the members, if not directly are indirectly supporting what we promised to do in 2015. We are now delivering on that. Now they are on side with the fact that we should be investing in Canada's infrastructure.
The members talk a lot about the process. I would like to go over the process a little.
I pointed out the City of Winnipeg plan. It is in a great position, from a local perspective. When people complain about potholes, or streets or community facilities, they contact the city. The city has a limited tax base, through property tax and a few other sources, to generate revenue. If it were left up to the city or the municipal governments, that overall infrastructure deficit would continue to grow. Provincial governments of all political stripes have recognized that, and so has the national government.
In the last four or five years, we have seen a national government that truly cares about the infrastructure. We have actually done two things. Not only have we allocated record amounts of money for infrastructure, but looking at the last budget we presented, we doubled down on the gas tax for that budget year. That meant tens of millions of more dollars for the City of Winnipeg to do some of the more common things, such as fixing potholes or identifying some streets in Winnipeg North and other ridings that needed a little more attention. We have been dependent on the local levels of government to establish those priorities, to work with the provincial entities and to see if we can get the different levels of government participating.
That is the essence of what has been taking place. Would we have liked to see some additional projects? Personally I would have loved to see the Chief Peguis extension. The member for Kildonan—St. Paul talked about the Chief Peguis extension. I agree that it is important. However, like me, she and other MPs who feel this is a priority should emphasize that to the City of Winnipeg. It is in a better position to prioritize the areas in our communities where those rare dollars will be invested. It is a limited amount of money at the end of the day, and we could spend a whole lot more than required.
I am very proud of the fact that we have a national government that is committed to investing in infrastructure. I would challenge any member of the opposition to demonstrate where in the last 50 years we have seen the type of commitment this government has made to building Canada's infrastructure from coast to coast to coast.
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