CBC News Federal Election



The problem with infrastructure, Prime Minister, is that it's too much like housecleaning: once you get one part just the way you like it, you turn around and find the rest of it in a mess. And nothing stays fixed forever.

Infrastructure can mean different things to different people, but for the most part, it describes the basic structures that exist for the use of the public. In Canada, that means roads, sewers, transit systems, airports, docks, communication towers and outdoor recreational facilities. Your federal government also counts some tourism projects as infrastructure. It can be difficult to put a finger on what might qualify, let alone who should pay.

And there is often the rub. When something needs to be done, Ottawa wants the provinces to pay, the provinces want the municipalities to pay, and the municipalities want someone else to pay.

But most levels of government agree on one thing: Canada's infrastructure is starting to deteriorate. And they're not the only ones who think so. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives charges that Canada's infrastructure is crumbling. Industry representatives for transport and civil engineering agree. The Canadian Automobile Association says the country's highways are in poor shape. They've been calling for a share of the gas tax to put toward the country's highways.

According to Statistics Canada, the federal share of public infrastructure has shrunk considerably in the last 40 years, while the provincial and municipal shares have increased. The agency also says that growth in public infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth or the growth of the economy. One Statistics Canada report says there is reason to be concerned about an "infrastructure crisis" due to that lack of investment.

     LINK: The Statistics Canada reportLink opens in new window

Right now, you have a few programs to choose from to hand out money, including the Infrastructure Canada Program, the Strategic Highways Infrastructure Program, and the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund.

But Transport Canada reports that while provincial governments spend more than they collect from road users on road maintenance, the federal government spends far less than they collect in fuel tax on roads. And how fair is that?

Cities have already received a GST rebate. It is supposed to provide them with an extra $7 billion over the next 10 years. Some of that will undoubtedly be spent on infrastructure. But the hands are still outstretched for more.

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