Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-01-28 10:05 [p.599]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to table to a petition calling on the government to declare a public health emergency for the opioid crisis that is affecting Canadians right across the country. We have lost over 12,000 Canadians to the opioid crisis.
The petitioners are from Courtenay—Alberni. They are calling on the government to reform current drug policy, to decriminalize personal possession, to create a sense of urgency and immediacy, and create a system to provide safe, unadulterated access to substances so that people who use substances experimentally, recreationally or chronically are not at imminent risk of overdose due to a contaminated source.
The petitioners are calling on the government to declare the current opioid overdose and fentanyl poisoning crisis a national public health emergency under the Emergencies Act in order to manage and resource it with the aim to reduce and eliminate preventable deaths. This will save lives.
The petitioners are calling on the House to take real action.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2020-01-28 10:06 [p.599]
Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
The Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 10:08 [p.599]
moved:
That, given the Parliamentary Budget Officer posted on March 15, 2018, 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”, the House call on the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the government’s “Investing in Canada Plan”, including, but not be limited to, verifying whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises; and that the Auditor General of Canada report his findings to the House no later than one year following the adoption of this motion.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my regards to my esteemed colleagues and to Canadians. I am very pleased to rise today to give my first speech in the House in 2020.
Before I get into the meat of today's motion, I am sure that my colleagues really want to know why I am so proud to rise to speak today. What has changed in 2020? What has changed since 2019? We have entered into a new decade. The Conservative leadership race is under way. We have a new Speaker in the House. The Quebec regional media have been saved, and I am now the critic for infrastructure and communities.
That, however, is not what I am most proud of. What then is so special about 2020? Although members may not be able to tell from looking at me, I have changed. It has nothing to do with new year's resolutions. I do not exercise enough, I do not always eat the way I should, and I did not make any resolutions to be kinder to the government in the House. Sorry about that. What has changed is my title.
For a week now, my wife, Caro, and I have been able to proudly call ourselves grandma and grandpa. My son, David, and his wife, Audrey, welcomed a baby boy named Clovis into the world.
I wanted to dedicate this first speech to my very first grandson and to his parents, who have made me so proud today. Welcome, Clovis. It is for you and all other children like you, for their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, that we all gather here to make Canada a place where families can succeed and thrive.
As parliamentarians, we must never forget that, despite our differences of opinion and different visions of how to go about it, we have a duty and a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of our children and all children, as well as their future.
As I said, I did not make a resolution to stop holding this government to account, so it is also for Clovis that I moved a motion today. On behalf of the official opposition, my motion holds the government to account with respect to infrastructure.
The motion is very clear. The 2018 budget provides an incomplete account of the changes to the government's $186.7-billion infrastructure spending plan. The Parliamentary Budget Officer requested a new plan because some of the funds had not been spent, but, unfortunately, he was told such a plan did not exist. That means the Parliamentary Budget Officer is no longer in a position to give parliamentarians the facts. That is why we are now calling on all parliamentarians to ask the Auditor General of Canada to audit the results of the Liberal government's investing in Canada plan and look into how it is being run.
Despite all the Liberals' claims and lofty promises, their infrastructure plan has not achieved the stated goals. They went on and on about how their $186-billion plan would put Canadians back to work, but the numbers make it clear that a significant amount of that money was never actually released, that the impact on employment was not as promised and that promises to grow the GDP were never fulfilled.
I will start with a bit of background. Let us look back to the 2015 election campaign. The 2015 campaign will probably go down in the books as the one when the Government of Canada spent more than at any other time in Canadian history, largely because of a promise that was broken. I must admit that this promise made Canadians happy at the time, but they got duped by a party that was prepared to promise heaven and earth in order to get back in power.
After pulling the wool over their eyes, the leader of that party, the current Prime Minister, soon went back on his word and drove the federal books into his party's trademark colour. Since 2015, Canada has been in the red because of the red party, and the situation keeps getting worse with every passing day.
What was that promise? No, it was not electoral reform, although that pledge did not come true either. The Prime Minister and his then candidates travelled all over the country repeating that they would run modest deficits of $10 billion the first year, $10 billion the second year, and $6 billion the following year, before returning to a balanced budget at the end of their term. They wanted to reassure everyone, because people had a sneaking suspicion that the red party might like red budgets.
The government not only failed to keep its promise, but it even decided that balancing the budget was not important. Indeed, there is no plan to balance the budget in the foreseeable future. There is spending, spending and more spending. What was the justification for this promise?
The government said it wanted to run small deficits to invest in our infrastructure in order to create jobs and wealth. That is what it said. The previous Conservative government managed to bring in an ambitious infrastructure plan that did not burden our grandchildren. The logic was sound. We could take advantage of the low interest rates to take on tangible infrastructure projects. We might have seen something tangible. We might have seen some results. We might have seen Canadians at work. This could have had an impact on our economy. At the very least, if the money from these loans went toward our infrastructure, we might have seen results. The problem is that reality caught up with the government rather quickly. The most positive of Conservative pessimists understood. Spending did increase, the deficit ballooned, but the investments in infrastructure did not materialize.
The Liberal's investing in Canada plan, the government's $186-billion cornerstone of infrastructure spending, made several promises to Canadians:
1. Rate of economic growth is increased in an inclusive and sustainable way.
2. Environmental quality is improved, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reduced and the resilience of communities is increased.
3. Urban mobility in Canadian communities is improved .
4. Housing is affordable and in good condition and homelessness is reduced year over year.
5. Early learning and child care is of high quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive.
6. Canadian communities are more inclusive and accessible.
7. Infrastructure is managed in a more sustainable way.
That is straight out of the investing in Canada plan. That is what the Liberals promised to do with those billions of dollars.
Have Canadians seen a single one of these objectives materialize? Unfortunately, it is obvious that the government failed to meet its objectives during its first mandate; if we look at the numbers and everything before us, it will not meet them in this mandate.
The government failed miserably. Unfortunately, it also failed to report to parliamentarians on its management of the $186-billion investing in Canada plan. I am sure I am not the only member of Parliament who has been waiting since the announcements, since the last election campaign, to see shovels in the ground across the country over the past four years. We were expecting to see roads, bridges, schools and community centres being built. We thought they would be all over the place. We thought that every single riding we represent would see something. We thought that this multi-billion-dollar investment plan would create jobs.
I now have a question for my colleagues. Have there been many projects in their ridings? Have they seen trucks or shovels in the ground?
Some hon. members: No.
Mr. Luc Berthold: Absolutely not. It did not happen. MPs are not the only ones wondering, which brings me to today's motion. On a number of occasions, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and his office have taken a look at expenditures and results of the investing in Canada plan.
We have a role to play as parliamentarians. The role of Parliament, the House of Commons and MPs is to grant the government the money it needs to operate. For instance, in a majority situation, the government has no problem spending as much money as it wants, since it holds a majority when the time comes to vote on supply. In a minority situation, if it loses a single supply vote, the government falls and is dissolved. Why? Because the House refused to grant the money it has asked for.
Since parliamentarians are responsible for granting supply, it just makes sense that parliamentarians should have access to all the information on government spending in order to make informed decisions on public finances. Unfortunately, the government has obviously not provided parliamentarians with all the information on the actual status and results of the investing in Canada plan.
We cannot make any assumptions about the government's good or bad faith, and that is why we are calling for an investigation today.
The information may have been buried in the mountain of data coming from the machinery of government, making it impossible to find. There are approximately 5,000 public servants responsible for collecting information in order to report to Canadians. We are all aware of just how much information one person can produce in a day. If all that information was given to parliamentarians before it was sorted or without any explanation or cross-referencing of figures, parliamentarians would obviously have no idea what they were looking at. Despite all the means at our disposal, we would not be able to make any decisions because there is simply too much information.
That is why Parliament created the position of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I would like to quote the first two paragraphs of the website, which gives the history of that position. It states:
The position of the Parliamentary Budget Officer was created in December 2006 as part of the Federal Accountability Act. It was a response to criticisms surrounding the accuracy and credibility of the federal government’s fiscal projections and forecasting process.
At the time, some economists and parliamentarians were concerned that successive governments in the mid-to-late 1990s through the mid-2000s had shaped fiscal projections, overstating deficits and understating surpluses for political gain.
The role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is important, which is why we need to take his reports on Canada's public finances very seriously.
He has taken a look at the investing in Canada plan and its actual results. He has mentioned them several times in his reports and in testimony before various parliamentary committees. What he tells us is troubling. It is time for another organization, like the Auditor General of Canada, to take a closer look at how the Liberal government is managing the $186 billion it received from parliamentarians for this infrastructure plan.
I just want to summarize the revelations and observations made by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I want to thank his team for their collaboration and for answering our questions.
The first report is dated March 29, 2018, and is entitled “Status Report on Phase 1 of the New Infrastructure Plan”. PBO officials essentially state that they noted several information gaps that were primarily due to the inability of departments and agencies to provide enough details to reconcile the overall spending that had been announced with the sum of the individual projects. Despite their experience, the PBO analysts were unable to match the exorbitant amounts that had been announced with the projects on the ground. That is unacceptable.
The report also revealed this:
Of the total $14.4 billion budget for NIP Phase 1, federal organizations have been able to identify $7.2 billion worth of approved projects that were initiated in either 2016-17 or 2017-18. Thus, $7.2 billion of Phase 1 funding is yet to be attributed to projects.
Only half of the total budget was attributed to projects.
We all remember the basic premise: run small deficits to invest in infrastructure and create middle-class jobs. Those small deficits now add up to $26 billion, but only $7.2 billion was actually invested in projects during the government's first term. That is unacceptable.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, “such unexpected delays can also provide insight regarding whether federal infrastructure spending is a useful policy instrument for short-term fiscal stimulus”. Obviously, if we do not invest, there will be no fiscal stimulus. Without money, trucks and workers on the ground, there will be no job creation.
In other words, the Liberals' big promises turned out to be empty ones. Their airy promises of fiscal stimulus amounted to nothing.
According to the same report:
Budget 2016 committed $11.3 billion...in infrastructure spending over 2016-17 and 2017-18, resulting in an expected increase in the level of real GDP of 0.2% and 0.4% in 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that GDP only increased by 0.1% over those two fiscal years. We call that missing the mark outright, not just a little.
Here is another quote:
We estimate that Budget 2016 infrastructure investments will provide a modest boost to...GDP and employment over the remainder of the planning horizon.
Not only were results poor in the past, they will be poor in the future.
That is not all. In analysis of budget 2018, the Parliamentary Budget Officer's comments about the Liberal infrastructure plan are scathing.
Budget 2018 provides an incomplete account of the changes to the Government’s $186.7 billion infrastructure spending plan. PBO requested the new plan but it does not exist. Roughly one-quarter of the funding allocated for infrastructure from 2016-17 to 2018-19 will lapse. Both legacy and new infrastructure programs are prone to large lapses.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer then rightly goes on to suggest that parliamentarians may wish to ask questions about that, which is what we are doing today.
After failing to carry out phase 1, the Liberals have no plan for how to invest the tens of billions of dollars allocated to more than 50 programs falling under some thirty agencies and departments. They are incapable of doing the legwork, they are incapable of reporting to Parliament and incapable of providing a comprehensive investment plan.
We have all day to talk about it. I know that my Liberal colleagues will spend the day telling us about the wonderful projects that have been completed and other projects that have been announced without really knowing when those will get off the ground. Some projects have been announced once, twice, three times. The cost is not calculated. If that is how the Liberals balance their budget, it does not work.
The fact is that there is no plan and management is piecemeal, and so there is no impact on the economy. Instead of celebrating, my colleagues opposite should be as concerned as we are about the government's inability to plan for its infrastructure investments.
I would like to talk about another a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I explained earlier that the government failed to live up to expectations. I will now explain how this Liberal government, which wanted to impose its infrastructure plan on all the provinces, ended up back at square one.
In a report tabled in Parliament in March 2019 entitled “Infrastructure Update: Investments in Provinces and Municipalities”, staff at the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that they were not able to independently verify that the federal funds had indeed increased infrastructure spending overall, since part of the federal increase appears to have been offset by planned decreases in provincial spending.
Am I to understand that the Liberal government forgot that it is not authorized to invest in provinces on its own and that it did not get assurances that the money it was loaning to build roads, bridges and social housing would be used for new investments? All of that lip service and those projections were cancelled out because the Liberals were unable to make sure that the provinces would keep up with their own investments.
Here are some figures from the Parliamentary Budget Officer:
...according to their 2016-17 and 2017-18 budgets, provinces were planning to spend $100.6 billion in capital. Instead, they invested $85.1 billion, which is $15.5 billion lower than their initial plans.
That is what the Liberals are trying to hide. The investing in Canada plan has failed to create wealth for the middle class, failed to achieve anything tangible, and failed to be transparent and accountable.
The final straw came during the last election campaign, when we asked the PBO to analyze one of our proposals. Here is the reply I received:
...you asked if we could provide you with a copy of all the data sets provided to us by Infrastructure Canada with regard to a complete list of the projects and their funding allocations.... Unfortunately, Infrastructure Canada considered these data to be confidential, so they were not disclosed.
That response is unacceptable. Given the government's lack of transparency and accountability, the Conservatives believe that the Auditor General must immediately conduct an audit of the investing in Canada plan. Naturally, we are counting on the collaboration of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP to shed as much light as possible on how the Liberals are managing the $186 billion. Canadians and parliamentarians of all stripes have the right to know what the Liberals are doing with their money.
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2020-01-28 10:28 [p.602]
Madam Speaker, the hon. member across the way is even more honourable now that he is a grandfather. I congratulate him on the birth of Clovis. It is a great role and I also enjoy my three grandchildren, Michael, Anna and Jack. A lot of the work we do in this place is for them, including investing in infrastructure.
It is a very interesting discussion today because it really highlights the need to work with all orders of government. In Guelph we recently made an announcement of $170 million going towards electric buses, charging stations and a new garage for transit. Of this $170 million, $40 million came from the federal government, $30 million from the province and $100 million from the municipality.
Our role as members of Parliament is to start these discussions within our communities, to talk about the opportunities that the federal government has as a partner and to drive projects like this forward. I have four housing projects I am working on with CMHC along with the three orders of government in Guelph as well. The federal portion changes the conversation.
Could the hon. member talk about how he is engaging with his community and the provincial government to drive projects forward for his community?
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 10:29 [p.602]
Madam Speaker, on the Infrastructure Canada website, in the “Investing in Canada Plan” tab, there is a map that shows all of the projects that were announced in every community.
We are not denying that communities need a real plan, a real opportunity to invest in upgrading infrastructure and public transit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are not denying that Canadians, municipalities and provinces need a real opportunity to invest in adapting municipal sewer systems and react to climate change. I think that we can all agree on that.
The problem lies somewhere between the Liberals' promises and what is really happening on the ground, or what failed to happen in 2016-17 and 2017-18. That is what we want to know. Why is there a difference between the two? Why do the numbers and the announcements not reflect what is happening on the ground?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Peter Julian Profile
2020-01-28 10:30 [p.603]
Madam Speaker, I really enjoyed my colleague's speech, and we fully intend to support today's motion.
I do want to point out, however, that the Conservatives have really changed their tune since they were in power and presided over the public-private partnership fiasco. The Conservatives spent billions of dollars, most of which ended up in the coffers of private corporations. The same thing is happening now right here in Ottawa, with P3s channelling profits to the private sector while saddling taxpayers with all the costs and, unfortunately, making Canadians foot the bill when problems come up.
Here is my question: Have things changed within the Conservative Party? Do Conservatives now understand that the approach they took while in power was a bad one?
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 10:32 [p.603]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. If I may, I want to take a moment to savour the first part of his question, when he said that he would support our motion to find out more about the Liberals' infrastructure plan.
If we look ahead, which is the direction we should be looking, we absolutely must find out where the money is going and why the money that had been promised to communities has not been invested. We must find out why projects aimed at upgrading infrastructure to prepare for climate change, for example, have not come to fruition.
We also want to hear the Liberals' new plan. If $7 billion has not been spent in two years, how will it be spent in the coming years?
Unfortunately, we have not been able to get an answer, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer has not either.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-01-28 10:33 [p.603]
Madam Speaker, my question is for my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable.
We all remember the 2015 election. The Liberal Party promised that Quebec would get its infrastructure funding in a lump sum, that it would be transferred in a lump sum, since the Government of Quebec and the municipalities manage most of the infrastructure and have the expertise. As we saw, once the federal government gets involved, everything takes longer. The Liberal Party, which became the Liberal government, wanted to put an end to those interminable delays.
Many will remember that it took the Harper government two and half years to bring in a framework agreement, and another year and a half per project. Unfortunately, the Liberal government quickly went back on its word and never raised the issue again.
Would my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable agree that the money should be transferred to Quebec in a lump sum in order to shorten the delays and because Quebec has the expertise?
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 10:34 [p.603]
Madam Speaker, ideally, these decisions would be made locally, by people who are in touch with local residents and who are in a position to make the best possible decisions themselves. I was the mayor of Thetford Mines for seven years, and I can say that if I had been allowed to manage infrastructure budgets without 12,546 restrictions, I would have been able to make better decisions. Some things would have been done much quicker.
There need to be negotiations between the provinces and the federal government, but obviously, the fewer restrictions the federal government puts on transfers to the provinces, the better for everyone. That is also true at the second level: The fewer restrictions the provinces impose on the municipalities, the better for everyone.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
Madam Speaker, sometimes we can learn from the past. During the global recession, the Conservative government committed to getting $47 billion out the door over two years. An Auditor General's report said we did it effectively and managed the risks. If we have a government that is effective, the commitments that have been made can get done. Because at the time there was an Auditor General's report, can my colleague see any conceivable reason why the Liberals should vote against this transparency of government?
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 10:35 [p.603]
Madam Speaker, I think that today there is one question we need to ask all parliamentarians: Do they want to have all the tools they need to make good decisions in order to provide the government with all the money it needs to operate? Getting that information requires transparency about investments, transparency about economic growth forecasts, and transparency about progress towards greenhouse gas reduction targets. When the government says it is going to invest such and such an amount to achieve a given result, it also needs to present a status report. Unfortunately, we are not getting one, nor is the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We therefore call on the Auditor General to take a brief look into the 50 programs currently being administered by the government and tell us what is going on with them.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, during the back and forth between the Conservative member and the Bloc member, there was a discussion about getting the projects at the ground level so that the communities and provinces could deal with those objectives and priorities. The interesting thing is that is exactly what the gas tax does, which we doubled in the last session of Parliament. Rather than doing one-off buildings of gazebos, creating fake lakes and having ribbon-cutting ceremonies like the Conservatives used to do, we have decided to give the money from the gas tax right to the communities and provinces so they can decide what to do with it. Would the member agree the program does exactly that?
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
The hon. member for Mégantic—L’Érable has about one minute to respond.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-01-28 10:37 [p.604]
Madam Speaker, one minute is not enough time to explain to my colleague opposite how the gas tax transfer represents only a very small part of the $186 billion that is unaccounted for.
The member ought to be careful about saying that our request focuses exclusively on the gas tax. The Conservative government made the federal gas tax transfer permanent. That means that we truly believe in it. Had the government decided to invest more in the federal gas tax, we would not have opposed that measure. However, we need to remain flexible. The Liberals opposite are not in the habit of remaining flexible when they transfer a program. They impose all sorts of conditions, and the municipalities and provinces do not really like that.
View Andy Fillmore Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Andy Fillmore Profile
2020-01-28 10:38 [p.604]
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to speak today about the Government of Canada's investments in Canadian communities and in our country's infrastructure.
I have spoken in the House before about my career before politics as a city planner and I have shared the story of how that experience led me to enter public life. As an urban planner, I became all too familiar with the sorry state of our nation's infrastructure and the serious threat that it posed to the sustainability, security, prosperity and even the livability of our communities. I was also keenly aware of the opportunity before us, the potential of infrastructure to set our cities and towns up for success, if only we could find the confidence to invest in our cities, our towns and our own future.
I answered the call that I heard to enter federal politics because I wanted to be part of a team that would make historic investments in infrastructure to help literally reshape communities for the better.
As city and town planners, we have a vision for Canada where our communities empower citizens, where our communities lead Canada toward its best days. As planners, we push for a connected Canada with world-class local and regional public transit systems that get us not just to work on time but across the province dependably; an inclusive Canada with secure and affordable housing options for middle- and low-income Canadians, with quick and direct access to the places where we live, work and play, the supermarket, the doctor's office, the school, the neighbourhood day care and the ice rink. We push for a resilient Canada that is well prepared for the challenges that come with a changing climate and rising sea levels, cities and towns that are cleaner and less reliant on sources of energy that pollute our skies and harm our health, communities that are less resource intensive and do more with less; and a vibrant Canada strengthened by cities and towns that feel like home with community centres, libraries, YMCAs, museums, theatres and parks.
Here is the good news. The Canada we seek is closer now than it has ever been. We are on the threshold of sweeping transformation and the renewal of the Canadian community experience.
In 2015, our government was elected on a mandate to make those historic investments in infrastructure. Right out of the gate, we got to work. In close consultation with indigenous partners; provincial, territorial and municipal leaders; and stakeholder groups like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we designed the investing in Canada plan, a visionary, long-term plan that is investing billions in infrastructure projects in every corner of this great land, a plan the magnitude of which has not been seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal of more than 80 years ago.
Our government believes in the importance of investing in infrastructure, and the plan is tangible proof of what the government promised Canadians, specifically, to create good jobs, grow the economy and invest in clean air and water, modern and reliable public transit, strong infrastructure and sustainable communities.
Our progress has been tremendous. Since the plan was launched, over 52,000 projects have been announced government-wide, with federal contributions of nearly $60 billion. Almost all of these projects are either started or completed.
As we said they would, these investments are translating into greater economic growth. Since 2015, Canadians have created one million new jobs, and 77,000 of these are strong, middle-class jobs in the infrastructure sector. Investments delivered by Infrastructure Canada are a core contributor to this outcome.
Through our new and legacy infrastructure funding programs, our work on building major bridges, our support for partnerships through the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the smart cities challenge, we are directly growing the economy and creating communities that work.
In 2016, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimated that fully one-third of our infrastructure was only in fair, poor or very poor condition. That is why in our very first budget, budget 2016, we committed $14.4 billion for projects that could be delivered quickly, projects that would see new public transit, green and social infrastructure built, and existing assets rehabilitated, repaired and modernized. It also provided funding for post-secondary education and broadband access for remote communities, because these are essential to helping all Canadians prepare for the future.
Nearly all of these projects are under way or completed, meaning communities across the country have already benefited from the projects delivered during that phase.
For example, in Plessisville, Quebec, we invested nearly $24 million in the renewal of water pipes and the replacement of aeration pipes throughout the municipality so that families can have peace of mind and continue to have access to clean drinking water.
In Bonnyville, Alberta, we invested over $32 million to extend the regional water supply system to bring more safe, clean water to homes.
At home in Halifax, we invested $24 million to purchase two new ferries and 39 new buses, cutting congestion on our city streets and improving the daily commute for many residents. In Toronto, Ontario, we invested close to $310 million to purchase new, clean diesel and hybrid buses to help reduce greenhouse emissions, traffic gridlock and travel time in one of Canada's busiest cities. In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, we invested $12 million to help renew and upgrade its existing fleet of buses to help more people get to and from work and to essential services more quickly.
Those were all projects Canadians told us they needed in order to prosper.
Through budget 2017, we committed an additional $81.2 billion in funding for large-scale projects that would transform the landscape of Canadian communities in five key priorities: public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation infrastructure, and funding for rural and northern communities infrastructure. Public transit projects, like Vancouver's Broadway Subway, will create new links between communities and change the way that residents get around their cities.
One year later in our second budget, budget 2017, we introduced two new initiatives: the smart cities challenge and the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The smart cities challenge is a pan-Canadian competition designed to spark innovation and empower communities to adopt a smart cities approach to improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data and connected technologies. I can tell members that those of us in the city planning community were overjoyed with the announcement of the smart cities challenge. Finally, there was opportunity for citizens to be part of building the innovative, sustainable, modern cities that truly belong in the 21st century and a chance to get people excited about what was possible in our communities if we put our best minds together to develop forward-thinking policies.
The benefits for the winners of the first challenge are clear. Bridgewater, a challenge-winning community in Nova Scotia, is working to help lift residents out of energy poverty. Communities in Nunavut are benefiting from measures to reduce the risk of suicide. Guelph and Wellington County in Ontario are implementing their first technology-enabled circular food economy. Montreal, Quebec is innovating to enhance mobility and access to food for its residents.
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