Feds de­lay $2.14B in con­struc­tion cash

Lethbridge Herald - - BUSINESS ✦ AGRICULTURE - Jordan Press

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment failed to spend $2.14 bil­lion that was ear­marked last year to re­build roads, bridges and other large-scale projects aimed at help­ing peo­ple in their day-to-day lives, newly re­leased doc­u­ments show.

The re­cent depart­ment re­port shows spend­ing from In­fra­struc­ture Canada was about 40 per cent lower than the $5.3 bil­lion that had been planned for the last fis­cal year, which ended March 31, 2017.

The largest chunk of the spend­ing short­fall was $1.48 bil­lion that didn’t get spent on var­i­ous largescale projects, rep­re­sent­ing about 90 per cent of what the gov­ern­ment ex­pected to spend on things like new tran­sit and wa­ter sys­tems, two key ar­eas of fo­cus on the Lib­eral agenda.

It’s not clear from the doc­u­ments how long it’s ex­pected to take for the money to ac­tu­ally flow to projects.

The fig­ures help to il­lus­trate the mag­ni­tude of a prob­lem that has plagued the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s multi­bil­lion­dol­lar in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram from the out­set: they can’t seem to get the money out of the fed­eral trea­sury fast enough.

The gov­ern­ment — which typ­i­cally does carry about 25 per cent of its in­fra­struc­ture from one project to the next — says it’s sim­ply man­ag­ing the flow of cash to projects. Op­po­si­tion crit­ics, on the other hand, say the idle money is symp­to­matic of prob­lems with the pro­gram.

Fed­eral dol­lars only flow once cities and prov­inces sub­mit re­ceipts for re­im­burse­ment, of­ten cre­at­ing a de­lay be­tween when work takes place and when the fed­eral money is spent.

In some cases, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment won’t re­ceive re­ceipts un­til a project is com­pletely done. In other cases, projects are de­layed be­cause of labour strife, bad weather or other fac­tors be­yond Ot­tawa’s con­trol — a fac­tor last week’s de­part­men­tal re­port warns read­ers about.

The re­port also shows that the gov­ern­ment moved $591.8 mil­lion into a fund for small com­mu­ni­ties, boost­ing its value to $1.5 bil­lion.

It says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has given prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries an ul­ti­ma­tum: iden­tify projects for all the money left in the pro­gram — cre­ated by the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment — by March 31, 2018, or watch it go to munci­pal­i­ties through what’s known as the fed­eral gas tax fund, es­tab­lished in 2005 to pro­vide a sta­ble, pre­dictable source of an­nual fed­eral in­fra­struc­ture dol­lars.

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