A plan to help all Canadians
T he federal Liberals termed it an historic investment to create jobs and grow the economy. A $60 billion infrastructure plan over 10 years was a key plank in the party’s platform that helped it sweep to power last October. Atlantic Canadians certainly bought into it.
The party correctly determined that Canadians would support spending billions to provide an economic stimulus while addressing crumbling roads, bridges, buildings and other public projects.
The first, $12-billion phase of the program is for shovel-ready projects - mostly roads, water treatment and transit systems - that can be completed by 2018. The next phase launches in 2019 - just in time for the next federal election - and will provide $48-billion for longer-term projects in public transit, social and green infrastructure.
Some smaller projects are already proceeding but the big dollars should be coming soon. At least that’s the indication when federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi met with Canadian mayors in Winnipeg earlier this month.
That wasn’t the only good news. Mayors are confident the minister will be flexible with dollars, plus allow a wider variety of projects to qualify for funding.
It seems common sense has prevailed. Provincial and civic governments are the ones which best know the priorities for their municipality or province. They should be the ones to make the final decision.
In past years, Ottawa was accused of being too restrictive with infrastructure projects. Some provinces and municipalities didn’t qualify and many smaller municipalities missed out. The one-size-fits-all restrictions benefitted major cities but hurt smaller provinces and regions.
Ottawa has also eased its rigid partnershipfunding ratio with provinces and municipalities. This kept smaller communities, which operate on a razor thin budget, from reaping infrastructure benefits. Even some larger cities or provinces found it hard to raise millions to cost-share expensive but necessary projects.
Now, the federal government is cost-sharing some projects to help out provinces and communities. In other cases, Ottawa has stepped up and paid the majority of the cost.
It seems fair that our tax dollars benefit all regions and communities instead of being poured into subway extensions in Toronto and Montreal.
The federal government has already expanded eligible infrastructure to include smaller roads and ferry systems. Before this year, a highway had to reach a daily traffic threshold to qualify for federal help. That’s fine for the Trans-Canada Highway and big cities with high numbers of daily commuters. But in Atlantic Canada, getting our farm, fish, forestry and mining products to markets over dangerous side roads is a growing problem.
The federal concessions are a continuation of what the Federation of Canadian Municipalities call “unprecedented collaboration and discussion with federal partners.”
Mr. Sohi said Ottawa wants to support local communities - not tell municipalities what to do and how to build the infrastructure.
It’s refreshing to see a government program improved to benefit more people through common sense consultation and collaboration with its partners.
Isn’t this how governments are supposed to work?
— This editorial originally appeared in The Telegram