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Results: 1 - 15 of 18
Robert Coulombe
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Robert Coulombe
2013-04-23 15:47
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Members of the committee, the Union of Quebec Municipalities eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in your committee's examination of how competition can make infrastructure dollars go further. This is a very important issue and one that we are in fact working on at this time.
The UQM represents municipalities of every size and in every region of Quebec. Its mission is to promote the fundamental role of municipalities in social and economic progress in every part of Quebec and to support its members in building democratic, innovative and competitive communities. Its members represent the voice of nearly six million citizens and over 80% of the territory of Quebec.
In the last year, the UQM has launched an important initiative to optimize the management and planning of municipal infrastructure investments in Quebec. The starting point was the exhaustive study done by Deloitte and E&B Data, which enabled us to assess municipal infrastructure needs. The findings are clear: municipal infrastructure as a whole comprises a substantial body of assets, with a total value of over $200 billion; the municipal infrastructure deficit has grown, and today amounts to $3 billion. This means that the need is significant. To rehabilitate our assets and maintain them in good condition, the three levels of government are going to have to increase their tripartite investments by $3 billion.
There is a diverse range of needs. They relate to roads, public transit, cultural and recreational facilities, municipal buildings, and so on. Ultimately, the municipalities themselves bear an unfair burden. They are responsible for 76% of the net cost of the funding for municipal infrastructure. This analysis demonstrates the full extent of the challenge represented by the renewal of our public infrastructure, in circumstances where the state of public finances makes our decisions all the more difficult.
For that reason, the new Long-term Infrastructure Plan announced in the last budget is an important asset. It will enable us to maintain our efforts and continue the catching up that has been begun in recent years. However, this level of investment does not match the extent of the need. The review clause in the Building Canada plan, which provides for the situation to be reassessed every five years, will be an excellent option when our public finances have improved. But between then and now, we will have to work to maximize our investments and optimize the way we do things, with the goal of doing more with the same resources. The issues being examined today are therefore very timely. The UQM believes that optimizing the way we do things will enable us to get more competitive bids and the best work for the best price.
I will now address question 1, reducing red tape.
For several years, the UQM has been calling for red tape to be reduced and for greater municipal autonomy. This is primarily because municipalities are in the best position to know what the needs and priorities of their communities are, and also because they have the necessary expertise to carry out their projects at the best cost. Making dollars go further must therefore mean that they are able to spend the most possible time on carrying out their projects, by reducing red tape to a minimum.
As well, as we have unfortunately experienced in the past, municipalities have often had to pay the costs of lengthy negotiations between the federal government and the government of Quebec, the effect of which has been to delay the start of the work. The UQM hopes that this mistake will not be repeated in the next Building Canada plan, because it would be taxpayers and the economy that would suffer the consequences.
I will now move on to question 2, the contracting process and increasing the number of bidders for projects funded by the federal government.
For several years, the UQM has been calling for stable and predictable long-term funding, to enable municipalities to plan their investments better and to avoid "overheating" of prices. The new Long-term Infrastructure Plan, spread out over 10 years, will therefore be beneficial.
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Robert Coulombe
View Robert Coulombe Profile
Robert Coulombe
2013-04-23 15:55
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It offers municipalities an opportunity to plan their investments better and foster a climate of healthy competition.
For a long time, the UQM has also been calling for more flexible infrastructure programs to be set up, covering a wider range of infrastructure types, to meet what are increasingly varied needs and to enable municipalities to diversify their investments, to avoid "overheating" prices.
The announcement in the last budget concerning the expansion of the categories of eligible infrastructure is another measure that encourages better competition. The UQM believes that municipalities have to have the best tools for identifying suspicious situations and properly assessing the cost of the bids received.
For that reason, the UQM is proposing a number of measures, including creating a municipal price evaluation board. The board's mandate would be to collect data about public contracts and produce annual indexes for each region of Quebec. We believe this kind of tool would enable municipalities to identify situations where there were flaws in the competitive process, among other things.
I will move on to question 3, which relates to expanding private sector infrastructure.
The first role of municipalities is to offer essential services to the public and to businesses, in order to improve the productivity of businesses and the quality of life for for families, and to enable municipalities to attract and retain workers. Municipalities' investments in infrastructure are therefore essential for creating an environment that is conducive and attractive to private investment. Those investments come before private investment.
To summarize, given the growing infrastructure needs and the precarious state of public finances, we have to work on improving the way we do things and making businesses more competitive. While the new Long-term Infrastructure Plan is a first step, there are other actions that can still be taken.
In concrete terms, that means there should be Canada-Quebec agreements that do not penalize the municipalities and do not delay the start of work, through programs that cover a broader range of infrastructure that will enable us to diversify our investments better, through investment that reflects the needs of our businesses and our residents, and through a strengthened tripartite federal/provincial/municipal partnership that will enable us to continue our efforts and the catching up we have been doing in recent years, on an ongoing basis.
Thank you for your attention. We are now prepared to answer your questions.
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View Denis Coderre Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Denis Coderre Profile
2013-04-23 16:06
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Quite often, it presents a problem in terms of tactics when you want to look for funding. The government of Quebec is the general contractor. You make your applications and the federal government is a facilitator and plays a role in the funding.
I imagine you have prepared an inventory of the things to do. I referred to basic infrastructure earlier. Certainly there is the Building Canada Fund. We advocate dedicated funds. I would like to hear your views on that.
So I do not support the reasoning of the present government in Ottawa. All the money cannot be put into a single project, like the Champlain Bridge, which would cost $2 or $3 billion. There are projects throughout the province. What are your views on that?
Essentially, should there not be dedicated funds in terms of sequences? The Building Canada Fund is one thing, and an amount is allocated to that. Another amount is allocated to innovation, and another to public transit or mass transit. Could the existing programs be added up and your deficit be made up that way?
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Robert Coulombe
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Robert Coulombe
2013-04-23 16:07
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In fact, the first dedicated fund, which relates to the gas tax, is an extremely useful program.
To answer your question, I have the impression we are on thin ice...
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View Lawrence Toet Profile
CPC (MB)
View Lawrence Toet Profile
2013-04-23 16:22
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses today.
I found a few things interesting in your introductory remarks. One was regarding the infrastructure funding and the prescriptiveness of it.
You indicated that being less prescriptive was going to be very helpful, especially to some of the smaller municipalities that you would be representing. You actually are encouraging this particular infrastructure plan to be even less prescriptive than the Building Canada fund was.
Why would you want to see less prescription? Perhaps you could expand on that and let us know how helpful it would be to the smaller municipalities, and even to the larger municipalities, as far as your organization sees it.
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Robert Coulombe
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Robert Coulombe
2013-04-23 16:23
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In fact, expanding the programs would enable all municipalities in Canada to benefit from them. However, it is limited to certain sectors. Take the example of drinking water. Some rural municipalities, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, have no water system. At this point, it is more difficult for them to be able to benefit from the programs.
That is why we say it could include cultural, sports or community infrastructure. Ultimately, it should be expanded to cover everything that falls under the municipalities' responsibility in relation to infrastructure. That is why we say a way should be found for it to benefit all Canadians, regardless of the size of the municipality.
However, there are things that are specific to the biggest cities. We were saying just now that there could perhaps be structuring programs, something we would completely support.
Overall, the coverage of the programs has to be expanded so that more Canadians can benefit from the programs set up by the federal government. That said, we are extremely happy that this program has been set up, because it meets our expectations and the public's expectations.
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Karen Leibovici
View Karen Leibovici Profile
Karen Leibovici
2012-10-29 15:30
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Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here this afternoon on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, representing almost 2,000 member communities across this great country of ours. We represent 90% of the Canadian population.
I would like to thank you all for working to create jobs and making critical infrastructure repairs in the last few years.
Right now, the federal government is developing a new long-term infrastructure plan to replace the Building Canada plan, which expires in 2014. This new long-term plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build the on-ground conditions for a strong, growing, and competitive economy. It's also a chance to give Canadians what they need: good roads, clean water, and solutions to the traffic gridlock that costs our economy billions of dollars every year.
There is no surer way to create jobs today and strengthen our economic foundations of tomorrow than investing in municipal infrastructure. When provincial, territorial, and local partners bring money to the table, no other investment goes as far or achieves as much. With the right long-term plan, we can put an end to the long decline in Canada's municipal infrastructure once and for all.
However, local governments don't have the tools to do it alone.
We have to do this together. We own and operate 60% of Canada's core economic infrastructure, but we collect just 8¢ of every tax dollar paid in Canada. In a couple of weeks, the FCM will be releasing a formal proposal with fully costed recommendations, but in the short time that I have here today I want to tell you where things stand right now.
The government has said it will have new infrastructure programs in place for the 2014 construction season. To meet that deadline, the new plan must be part of the 2013 federal budget and must be a plan that we can all endorse.
Getting the plan ready and making sure it meets the needs of our economy and our communities has been FCM's top priority. We've worked with the government, other stakeholders, and thousands of municipal leaders in every province and territory. Based on all that work, I want to share three points with you today.
First, there is broad support for an affordable plan that achieves the key federal objectives of supporting job creation and long-term economic growth, leveraging matching dollars from other orders of government, and expanding the private sector's role where it benefits Canadians.
Second, there's a strong agreement that the new plan must make the most of every tax dollar that we invest together. Also, it must show Canadians measurable improvements in the state of Canada's infrastructure, build the capacity of local governments to maximize efficiency through best practices and innovation, and minimize bureaucracy, red tape, and costly project delays.
Third, the final and most important point is that the new plan must make secure, reliable, and truly long-term investments in Canada's local infrastructure that are flexible enough to meet different regional needs. Every city and community is facing an infrastructure challenge. The nature of their needs may vary, whether it's roads, water, or traffic gridlock, but in every case the solution is long-term planning and long-term funding. Without investments it can count on, no community can meet its infrastructure needs.
Also, in a world full of economic uncertainty, Canadians want to know that we're taking action to build the conditions for a competitive economy and strong communities. As well, Canadians want to know that all orders of government are working together to make progress on practical priorities.
The new long-term infrastructure plan must benefit Canadians.
Local governments have worked closely with our partners in the last few years, and we want to keep working together for all Canadians.
We want to keep Canada on the road to jobs, growth, and a future we can count on.
I'd like to thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much.
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Michael Atkinson
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Michael Atkinson
2012-10-17 17:17
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I thank you and committee members for providing the Canadian Construction Association with the opportunity to appear before you today.
Our association represents the non-residential side of the construction industry. We build Canada's infrastructure. We have an integrated membership structure of some 70 local and provincial associations from coast to coast to coast in Canada, with a membership of just over 17,000 member firms, over 95% of which are small and medium-sized businesses.
The construction industry employs just under 1.5 million Canadians, or nearly 10% of Canada's total workforce. Our construction market is projected by international economic projections to be the fifth largest in the world by 2020, behind only China, the U.S., India, and Japan.
Our pre-budget submission addresses the areas of economic recovery, growth, job creation, demographic change, and productivity.
With respect to Canada's continued economic recovery and growth, it will probably come as no surprise to you that we continue to emphasize the importance of ensuring that Canada's key critical public infrastructures—its highways, roads, bridges, seaports, border crossings, inland trade routes, water treatment facilities, water distribution systems, schools, and hospitals—are not only repaired and restored, but improved and maintained. Why? Because there can be no economic growth without state-of-the-art and well-maintained critical public infrastructure.
Canada's critical public infrastructure is our national economy's health care plan. Despite the fiscal challenges, we cannot reduce our efforts to rebuild, improve, and maintain our vital infrastructure. We must not repeat the neglect of the past.
We very much support the focus of the current economic action plan on economic growth. Economic growth cannot occur without state-of-the-art public infrastructure. The current $33-billion Building Canada plan comes to an end on March 31, 2014. In order to ensure no gap in funding and not to lose a construction season, the new plan's successor long-term infrastructure plan must be part of the next federal budget.
We are hopeful that this summer's consultations with stakeholders around the country on the new federal long-term infrastructure plan helped reinforce the importance of ensuring that this plan continues and that we continue our sustained effort to ensure that Canada's infrastructure is world class. From our perspective, the long-term infrastructure plan must be truly long term, must be funded at a level equivalent to that of the current Building Canada plan, and must be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the diverse regions and participating partners.
In addition to the next long-term infrastructure program, we also believe the federal government needs to provide greater support and certainty for municipalities in the maintenance and rebuilding of their key municipal infrastructure. To this end, we commend the government for continuing and making permanent the gas tax transfer fund of $2 billion annually to municipalities; however, we would like to see that indexed so that it is not eroded over the years by inflation.
That brings me to my second recommendation on red tape. As an industry, we strongly support the efforts of the government to reduce the regulatory burden on small business, chiefly in areas where provinces or municipalities already have robust regulations essentially performing a similar function. Signing interjurisdictional agreements to deliver joint services, harmonizing regulations where possible, and creating a single federal-provincial service delivery window for small business would all be welcome. Certainly, your efforts in the area of environmental assessment and, indeed, the recommendations to the red tape commission, are positive movements.
With respect to the needs of our workforce of the future, and in training especially, we very much support the reforms that are being made to our permanent immigration system and also to our temporary foreign worker program, especially the measures that will see employers more involved in the process. With that, we commend the recent announcement by the government to bring in an expression of interest program for skilled worker immigration to Canada. We think that's a very positive step. We would certainly want to have it ensured by this committee that the necessary measures and resources to put that in place are there.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I will conclude my remarks. I look forward to your questions.
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View Denis Lebel Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for inviting me to meet with the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to provide an update on the transport, infrastructure and communities portfolio, and to address our main estimates.
I am joined today by my colleague, the Honourable Steven Fletcher. We are very proud and happy to have him back. He will speak to you about the crown corporations under the transport, infrastructure, and communities portfolio.
I am also accompanied by Ms. Yaprak Baltacioglu, the deputy minister, and by Ms. Anita Biguzs, Mr. André Morency, Mr. Taki Sarantakis and Ms. Su Dazé. My thanks to them for being here.
I also want to thank the committee for its many contributions to various transportation issues. I look forward to continuing to work with you to build a transportation system that will serve Canada's current needs and help drive tomorrow's prosperity.
The funding that Transport Canada is seeking through these main estimates will help to achieve these goals.
Transportation has always been identified with opportunity in Canada: it connect workers with jobs, travellers with destinations, and products with markets.
However, the current global economic environment is volatile and uncertain, as you know.
Canada's future prosperity will depend to a significant degree on how effectively we're able to anticipate and respond to global pressures. Our government has long recognized this fact. We continue to modernize our systems and policies to support the transportation sector, a process that has benefited from the input from this committee.
A prime example of building Canada's transportation sector is the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor initiative. Linking trade and transportation, the gateway approach has brought together public and private stakeholders to address issues of efficiency, reliability, performance, skills and system bottlenecks.
The Gateway and Corridor initiative is revolutionizing the way Canada trades with the Asia-Pacific region. It has opened up opportunities for trade, not only in western Canada but right across the country. We are applying the lessons learned with the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor to other key gateway and corridor regions in Canada—particularly the importance of aligning systems and maximizing efficiencies.
One vital trade corridor we remain focused on is Windsor-Detroit. It's North America's largest border crossing and our busiest port of entry. We remain fully committed to developing the new Detroit River international crossing. We continue to work with the governments of Michigan and the United States to jointly develop a model for delivering this crossing. It is our intention to pursue a public-private partnership to design, build, finance, and operate the new bridge crossing. Governor Snyder of Michigan assured me that this project remains a top priority for his administration.
He too wants a seamless crossing to improve the connection between one of the premier manufacturing and consumer corridors in the world: the mid-west states, Ontario and Quebec.
I have received the same assurance from Secretary LaHood, the United States Secretary of Transportation, and from Ambassador Jacobson.
In keeping with this theme of gateways and corridors, I also want to talk about the new bridge for the St. Lawrence—another key trade artery and the most heavily travelled bridge in Canada.
Last fall I announced that our government will proceed with this bridge in Montreal. Work is progressing well on this major project. We have launched the federal environmental assessment and have issued two requests for proposals to hire environmental experts, financial advisers, traffic forecasters, and design engineers. Discussions with partners to determine the most efficient way to move this project forward are ongoing and will continue throughout the duration of the project.
In the meantime, the Champlain Bridge remains an important commuter route and trade corridor for the regional economy, handling nearly 60 million vehicles per year.
With an estimated $20 billion in international trade crossing the bridge annually, it is critical to our national economy.
The safety and security of the people crossing the existing bridge each day remain a top priority for our government. That's why, since 2009, our government has announced significant investments totalling $380 million to keep this important bridge safe for all who use it.
Another area where we have made significant strides is railway safety. As you know, I have introduced Bill S-4 to amend the Railway Safety Act of 2001. It is the latest in a series of actions we have taken to strengthen the performance of the rail sector.
My predecessor launched a full review of the Railway Safety Act in 2007 following several high-profile accidents during the two previous years. That was followed by an investment of $72 million over five years, announced in budget 2009, to ensure that Canadians can count on a safe and reliable rail transportation system.
Bill S-4 is the next important step in advancing this goal. The legislation has been in development for more than three years and incorporates input from government, industry and labour. In fact, the legislation has been dissected clause-by-clause by standing committees on two separate occasions. It was approved by all parties both times.
The proposed amendments to the act reflect recommendations from the Railway Safety Act review, as well as the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities' study.
This bill is about better oversight tools to ensure safety; enhanced safety management systems to build a stronger rail safety culture; and additional authority to help protect our environment. Recently, second reading for Bill S-4 commenced, and members from all parties again expressed their strong support for this important piece of legislation. After several years of analysis, consultation, and debate, I look forward to the timely passage of Bill S-4.
Freight transportation is another railway sector in which we have been active. We kept our promise by launching the facilitation process for the rail service review and by appointing Mr. Jim Dinning to head it. I am pleased that he has agreed to take on the challenge of holding the consultations that will lead to improvements in the quality of service provided by the rail companies.
This review of rail freight services was launched in order to ensure that Canada has the rail network it needs to support a robust economy. As always, our Conservative government will honour its commitments.
Mr. Chair, I would now like to turn my attention to Infrastructure Canada and the important work it does.
As a former municipal politician, I know how essential federal infrastructure investment is to municipalities, provinces and territories.
It means a stronger economy on both the local and the national level. It means more secure jobs for Canadians. It means that people have reliable public transit. It means cleaner water and air. It means more parks, trails, community centres, and other important things that make communities better places to live and work.
I'm proud of our government's unprecedented actions to make federal infrastructure investments a priority. We started with budget 2007 and the seven-year Building Canada plan, and we invested $33 billion, the single largest federal infrastructure commitment in Canada's history.
Under this plan, we are funding thousands of infrastructure projects across Canada—projects that will have lasting economic and social benefits in communities for years to come.
Our government continued building on this foundation in budget 2009 with the economic action plan. Among many other measures, it introduced an additional $5.5 billion in targeted and timely federal infrastructure funding for provinces, territories, and municipalities.
In October 2011, I had the pleasure of celebrating the successful completion of about 4,000 projects under the infrastructure stimulus fund. These are important projects that got the economy moving and created jobs.
Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, 610,000 more Canadians are working today, resulting in the strongest recent employment growth by far among G7 countries.
In an uncertain global economy, our government will stick with our low-tax plan for jobs and growth—a plan that is working and which serves Canadians well.
Our balanced approach will boost our efforts to achieve a sustainable and prosperous recovery and preserve our economic advantage now and in the future. Key to achieving this progress is our ongoing commitment to public infrastructure, which last year's budget made clear.
We continue to make great progress in implementing two important commitments for the Government of Canada.
The first is a permanent annual investment of $2 billion in the gas tax fund. I am so pleased that we have passed this commitment into law, and now municipalities can count on stable, predictable funding for their local infrastructure projects, year after year after year.
Second, our government is working with our key partners—provinces, territories, and groups such as the Fédération canadienne des municipalités—on the development of long-term plans for public infrastructure to extend beyond the expiry of the Building Canada plan.
Your committee recently tabled a report on transit in Canada. The result of this work will help inform our long-term planning. Even though provinces and municipalities are responsible for transit, the information gathered through the committee's study will be valuable.
In November I announced with the Fédération canadienne des municipalités' board of directors how this engagement process would unfold. As a first step, we are currently taking stock of all that we have accomplished together with our partners and what the tangible benefits of our funding has been.
In phase two, we are continuing to work with our partners along with academics, technical experts, and practitioners to do some of the important analysis. Our goal here is to build the knowledge needed to make informed decisions.
This will set the stage for the final phase. Similar to when we launched the Building Canada plan, we will engage our partners on the broad principles and directions in a future infrastructure plan. The end result will be a long-term plan that meets the needs of Canadians.
As all of this is going on, our government will continue to deliver on its previous commitments, including managing the effective close-out of our programs under the economic action plan, and seeing our Building Canada plan commitments through to successful completion.
I'm proud to be part of a government that continues to lead the way in investing in public infrastructure and in building a better national transportation network that benefits all Canadians.
That concludes my remarks. I will now ask Minister Fletcher to speak to you. I would be happy to answer any questions that members of the committee have.
Thank you.
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View Denis Lebel Profile
CPC (QC)
If there is no drinkable water in certain municipalities, it isn't the fault of the federal government; it's the responsibility of municipalities to maintain the water supply system. It would be too easy to say that.
The Green Infrastructure Fund was used in a large number of cases. We completed over 4,000 projects with funding from Canada's Economic Action Plan. The Building Canada Plan had a budget of $33 billion, which has never been seen in the history of the country, but the opposition parties still voted against it.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
View Dan Albas Profile
2011-12-07 16:12
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Thank you.
Moving along, I attended one of the receptions at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and even though in my local area there is a lot more interest in the gas tax being made permanent and seeing that there be more flexibility within that for light standards and what not, what I heard from a number of municipal representatives is that they wanted to talk about a new infrastructure plan.
I do know that last week Mr. Lebel made an important announcement about a new infrastructure plan for post-2014, when the Building Canada plan expires. Can you give us some more details in regard to what will lie ahead regarding that new plan?
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View   Profile
2011-12-07 16:13
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Sure. Mr. Forster was with the minister at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
This is an important step, because the intent to discuss with all the players what the country needs was made public before the program comes to an end. Actually, in some ways that is very novel, because we have a lot of time to work with the partners to determine what the next program will look like and what it will focus on. That is a very big deal in infrastructure.
John, do you want to elaborate on the steps?
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John Forster
View John Forster Profile
John Forster
2011-12-07 16:13
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Sure, very quickly. The consultations will go in three phases. In the first phase we'll be looking at what the accomplishments have been and the results of the billions of dollars invested since Building Canada came out with stimulus and so on.
The second phase, next year, will be looking at where the gaps are and the priorities and where, as a country, we should be investing in the future.
A third phase, later next year, will be discussions with provinces, territories, and municipalities around principles, directions, for any kind of new programming after Building Canada expires.
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John Forster
View John Forster Profile
John Forster
2011-12-07 16:15
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I can say yes, unanimously. All of the provincial and territorial governments are very enthusiastic about the process, as were the stakeholders, and in particular the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They're sort of organizing themselves to have a lot of input into the process.
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View Jeff Watson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Jeff Watson Profile
2011-11-02 17:24
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My great thanks to my colleague, Mr. Coderre, for his suggestion.
In closing, I just want to zero in on a couple of quick areas. On the funding side, the federal government's funding of public transit over the last number of years has been under the umbrella, if you will, of an omnibus program, the Building Canada plan. It had several components and allowed flexibility so that municipalities could choose what projects and priorities they would prefer to be funding, including public transit.
First of all, in the recent election, we made a commitment. That program has to be replaced in due course. There will be consultations over the next couple of years towards that next long-term infrastructure plan. Should the issue of public transit funding be considered in that process, or should it be done in an ad hoc fashion? That's about the process for coming up with a funding.
Second, should the government depart from the traditional idea that there's an omnibus program with municipal flexibility and choice and have a dedicated fund, in an ongoing long-term fashion, that is specifically for public transit?
I have another important question I want to come back to and get in under the wire.
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