$12B for infrastructure forms key pillar of stimulus package
About $12 billion in new money would be set aside for roads, bridges, railways, universities, recreation centres and other infrastructure over the next two years as part of the Conservative government's effort to give the struggling economy a leg up.
Infrastructure coast to coast
Some projects that could get new or accelerated funding under the new budget:
Modernization and expansion of border service at Huntingdon, Kingsgate, and the Pacific Highway.
Evergreen transit line in Vancouver .
Twinning of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park, with $130 million funding through Parks Canada.
Telus Science Centre in Calgary.
- Highway 39 truck bypass in Estevan.
New capital projects of the Keewatin Railway Company.
Centreport Project at Inland Port in Winnipeg.
A new research facility for Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, with $50 million in funding
Bridges at two of the busiest U.S-Canada border crossings: the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia and the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, which could get up to $14.5 million
- Rehabilitation of federal bridges, including several in the National Capital Region, the Burlington Lift Bridge in Burlington and the LaSalle Causeway in Kingston, which could get $42 million in total.
Twinning key sections of the Trans-Canada Highway along Northern Highways 11 and 17
- Renewal of Union Station in Toronto.
Construction of a third Via Rail railway track at key points between Toronto and Montreal to boost express service, a project that could get $407 million.
$212-million renewal of the Champlain Bridge in Montréal, Canada’s busiest bridge.
Development of a plan for the future of the historic Manège Militaire in Québec City, destroyed by fire in 2008.
Completion of the Fundy Trail Parkway.
Improvements at the Shippagan Harbour.
Renewal of bridges on the National Highway System.
- Summerside Wind Energy Project.
Improvements to Tshiuetin railway.
Trans-Canada Highway improvements.
Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, Nunavut
$87 million over the next two years to maintain or upgrade key Arctic research facilities.
The City of Yellowknife Bypass Road.
Up to $217 million to accelerate the construction of the Pangnirtung Harbour in Nunavut and repair core small craft harbours across Canada.
Piqqusilirivvik cultural facility in Clyde River, Nunavut.
Water treatment programs in the Yukon.
"These and other infrastructure form the backbone of our future prosperity," said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in his budget speech Tuesday.
A day earlier, Transport Minister John Baird had promised the budget would include at least $7 billion for infrastructure.
Flaherty emphasized that most of the new money would be focused on projects ready to start construction and would only be available for the next two years.
He added that carefully chosen projects provide a much-needed short-term stimulus to the economy while creating new, good jobs in sectors such as construction, engineering and manufacturing.
Upgrades to arenas, universities
The funding would include:
- A $4-billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund for municipal, provincial and territorial infrastructure "renewal" projects that would be ready to start construction in 2009 or 2010.
- $1 billion over five years for a Green Infrastructure Fund focused on "sustainable energy" infrastructure such as modern energy transmission lines.
- $500 million over two years that would cover up to half the cost to upgrade recreational facilities such as hockey arenas, soccer fields and swimming pools.
- $500 million over the next two years for infrastructure projects in small communities.
- $515 million over two years for First Nations schools, and water and community services infrastructure.
- Up to $2 billion over the next two years to repair, retrofit and expand facilities at universities and colleges.
- $323 million over two years to restore federally owned buildings and $40 million over two years to make them more accessible to people with disabilities.
- $225 million over three years to develop and implement a strategy to extend broadband internet service to communities that don't have it.
- $80 million extra to help clean up contaminated federal sites.
- $500 million to encourage the greater use of electronic health records.
- $750 million over two years for scientific research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
- $250 million for repairs to federal laboratories.
The $12 billion in new money would not include funding for social housing, which would also receive hundreds of millions of dollars.
However, it includes funding for specific scientific research facilities such as the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Ont., as well as major federal projects such as a $407-million upgrade to Via Rail tracks in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor, to improve express service.
"I guess one thing I am satisfied with is that they’re looking at more than sewers and highways for infrastructure spending," said Jayson Myers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Association.
"They’re also looking at expanding broadband, digitization of medical records, alternative energy projects, all of that is very important. One concern I have is that this money flows fast. We can’t wait around six months for these mechanisms to be put in place. The need is right now."
Still, some question whether the government really thought through what infrastructure projects should be on the list.
"We had a good laugh at the infrastructure list," said Elizabeth Beale, president of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, a Halifax-based economic development think tank.
New Brunswick, for example, is getting cash to extend the Fundy Trail, which, Beale said, is more of an environmental project than traditional infrastructure.
Loans, funding advances
In addition to the new funds, the government has pledged to:
- Speed up distribution of provincial and territorial projects that were to be funded between 2011-2014 for startup in the next two years.
- Make up to $2 billion available in low-cost loans to municipalities to upgrade housing-related infrastructure.
The government said it also would try to make it faster and easier for projects to be approved under previously existing funding programs such as the Building Canada plan so they could start construction sooner.
According to the 2009 budget, the approval process is delayed by "duplication and inefficiencies in administration." The government said it would improve the situation by amending some legislation and making administrative changes such as ensuring a single environmental assessment meets both federal and provincial requirements.