A plan to help all Cana­di­ans

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

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

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