Public Values

Flaherty's budget won't promote big projects, critics say

Budget targets rehabilitation of existing structures — with strings attached.

Toronto public transit planner Rob MacIsaac says the budget makes it hard to move forwardJanuary 28, 2009 — The $12-billion in new infrastructure funding promised by the Conservative government will do little to spur the kind of high-profile projects identified by Jim Flaherty when he unveiled the federal budget, critics said on Wednesday.

In his budget speech on Tuesday, the Minister of Finance boasted his government was launching "one of the largest infrastructure building projects in our country's history." To demonstrate the scope of the Conservatives' infrastructure plan, Mr. Flaherty delineated a lengthy list of marquee projects that could receive federal funding, from a wind farm in Prince Edward Island to the rehabilitation of Toronto's Union Station to a new transit line in Vancouver.

But few of these ventures are slated to collect the new funding announced this week, according to the budget itself. If the projects do receive funding, it will likely come from the Building Canada plan, a strategy designed to build $33-billion in infrastructure over seven years.

The budget does promise to accelerate some Building Canada spending. Money originally scheduled to be spent between 2011 and 2014 will be made immediately available, meaning $1-billion more for provincial infrastructure projects over the next two years.

Instead of glitzy new infrastructure projects, the budget mostly targets the rehabilitation of existing roads, bridges and buildings. Mr. Flaherty committed $4-billion over the next two years to help cities and provinces repair aging infrastructure. There is also $2-billion earmarked for the maintenance and repair of colleges and universities and $296-million to revitalize federally owned infrastructure such as bridges, buildings and border facilities.

While many observers praised the government for making additional infrastructure funding available, there were also complaints that the funding comes with too many conditions and will be too slow in reaching the organizations that need it.

The funding must be used for construction that begins in the next two years, a restriction that will limit the size of the projects involved, according to Rob MacIsaac, the chairman of Metrolinx, a provincial agency charged with public transit planning in the Toronto region. "The strings that are attached to the money are such that large infrastructure projects are ineligible, because you can't get them completed within the horizon they set out," Mr. MacIsaac said. . .

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  Infrastructure funding won't promote big projects, critics say, by James Cowan, National Post, January 28 2009

Posted: February 05, 2009

  Public services
  Front lines

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