Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise in the House today to speak to this important motion put together and introduced by my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable, a motion calling for the Auditor General of Canada to immediately proceed with an audit regarding the government's invest in Canada plan announced back in 2016.
We all know that government investments in infrastructure are a very important part of the success of the economic development in our country, provinces and urban and rural communities. Without these investments, it is impossible to ensure strong, long-term economic development in our communities because this is directly linked to their infrastructure needs.
If a rural riding like mine has trouble developing and modernizing, residents will leave its cities, which will have a direct impact on the local economy and broaden the tax base considerably, thereby leaving the remaining population in a more vulnerable position.
I would like to remind our constituents that in 2015, the future Prime Minister announced that he was in favour of imposing modest deficit on Canadians, very temporary deficits, with the aim of significantly increasing his infrastructure spending from coast to coast to coast, which would boost our Canadian internal economy.
We have known for the last few years that this is totally false and that our financial situation is precarious and fragile. The former Conservative government made significant investments in this area and it is therefore difficult to understand the current situation. The Liberal government had announced in 2016 and 2017 its intention to spend $186.7 billion over 12 years on infrastructure projects. I will say that number again, because every time I do it kind of throws me off because it is such a large number: $186.7 billion over 12 years.
Since this announcement, infrastructure spending has been subject to delays. Moreover, it has not actually been as high as the number that was first announced. Today I cannot explain to my constituents, the mayors, the businesses or the entrepreneurs why we are dealing with such a disproportionate deficit from the Liberal government and why the funds planned for many of our infrastructure projects are still on ice, delayed, unanswered or simply refused. I also cannot explain to them how a government that continues to boast that the Canadian economy is doing well is unable to finance its needed and urgent infrastructure projects to create jobs, contribute to economic development and ensure the survival of rural communities, particularly as job creation would significantly reduce the number of citizens in rural regions departing for larger urban centres.
In 2020, the situation is clear. The only record that the Liberals have in terms of infrastructure is their failure. Already in 2017 we learned from the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer that the Liberals had barely spent half of the planned infrastructure investments. The following year, in 2018, facing this complete irresponsible and unacceptable situation, the Parliamentary Budget Officer asked for the Liberal infrastructure plan in order to have a better understanding of the situation and quickly realized that the plan did not even exist.
That is not all. A year later, in 2019, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, in order to help us better understand this disaster, asked for something very simple, something basic that any responsible and respectful government of hard-working taxpayers deserve to have in Canada: a list of all specific project commitments under the invest in Canada plan. However, the Liberal government has not been able to provide that data.
Again, this is totally unacceptable and irresponsible. Taxpayers in my riding, across Atlantic Canada and across the country demand the right to have a clear answer about how their money is being spent. Conservatives believe that the Auditor General of Canada must immediately investigate the matter and conduct an in-depth audit of the government's invest in Canada plan.
Given the out-of-control deficits, with more on the horizon, minimal investment in communities, job losses, dearth of job creation, lack of accountability and lack of transparency, there is clearly nothing positive coming our way under the Liberals.
Back at home in my beautiful riding of West Nova, there is an urgent need for infrastructure funding for our local projects. Our local economy depends on it, as I said earlier. If we want to preserve our achievements, continue to develop our markets, share our expertise and attract new investors, it is essential that our infrastructure projects get their funding.
West Nova has been waiting for years for certain pieces of infrastructure. Some, I admit, require partnership with other levels of government, which takes longer to negotiate. Some are completely the responsibility of the federal government. Roads and bridges, especially along the 100-series highways, part of the Trans-Canada system, need partnership, and so far have seen nothing.
There are a couple of interchanges that have been announced, due to their current “unsafe” listing, that need to be installed. Far too many accidents and deaths are occurring. Yet, before the election, a new interchange a couple of hundred kilometres away from my riding, up the highway in the South Shore riding, was announced. This underlines the government's planning process, to announce projects that are politically expedient and not announce them in other areas.
I am not saying that the Bridgewater intersection is not important, but one of the intersections in West Nova was identified as the third most dangerous interchange in Nova Scotia. You would think it would have been “safety first” when we announced these projects, but I guess not.
Speaking of safety and the effects of sea level rise, there are several instances where roads that never flooded are now flooding at every high tide. The Province of Nova Scotia applied for climate change mitigation funding, a part of this project, but it seems that these smaller projects are falling off the table. I need to see work done. My constituents need to see work done on the Rocco Point Road and many others, so that children can get to school, people can get to work and seniors can get to their doctor's appointments. God forbid there might be an emergency when there is one of these high tides.
I move now to Internet and cellphone service. This is a requirement of this century, but many parts of our riding still have poor or no service. It requires support from all levels of government to help build out these large infrastructures. The Nova Scotia government has money available. The municipalities are ready to support projects that make sense, but it seems that several of these projects have been turned down, making organizations and municipalities go back to the drawing board.
I am all for cheaper rates as a goal that has been put forward by the Liberal government; it is one that I support. Let us not forget that many Canadians do not have access to good Internet service or cellular service. I worry that the government pushing back in this respect is pushing back on the very companies that they want to partner with to provide these kinds of infrastructures.
Finally, West Nova probably has the highest seafood landings in all Canada, and the fishers rely on government-owned infrastructure to bring their catches in safely. These ports, in many cases, are anything but safe. Some of them are actually falling into the water. Due to chronic underfunding of these structures over the years, I estimate they will require almost $500 million of investment. Some fall under DFO and small craft harbours, like Port Maitland, East Pubnico and Pubnico, but others, like Digby, due to the failed divestiture program of the Chrétien Liberals, fall under this larger invisible program. Digby has become the safe harbour on the eastern side on the Bay of Fundy.
We are responsible to provide safe harbour for those boats and fishers who will find themselves in unsafe situations due to weather. We can see Digby's usage swell to close to 135 vessels, which effectively almost doubles the capacity of that port. They need help. The fishery is important, and it is time we actually pay attention to them.
Today, in Ottawa, I am working hard to ensure that West Nova's infrastructure projects get their fair share of funding so they can be completed.
When I was a provincial MLA, I always did everything in my power to defend Nova Scotia's interests. Until Conservatives form the next government, I want to ensure that the current Liberal government finally provides the answers to all Canadian taxpayers that they are entitled to receive.