Monday January 18, 2016

Competition fierce for a slice of the infrastructure budget to fund projects

Regional Chief for Ontario, Chief Isadore Day, hopes the government agrees that part of its infrastructure funds should go to build all season roads to connect 31 Northern Ontario remote communities that can no longer depend on melting ice roads.

Regional Chief for Ontario, Chief Isadore Day, hopes the government agrees that part of its infrastructure funds should go to build all season roads to connect 31 Northern Ontario remote communities that can no longer depend on melting ice roads. (CBC)

Listen 24:50
"At a time when interest rates are as low as they can mathematically be, at a time when construction costs are coming down from the overheated levels, at a time when people are out of work, the single smartest thing we can do is invest in the stuff we need to build anyway." -  Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on infrastructure spending

Last week, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke to The Current on the kind of infrastructure spending he'd like to see from the federal government. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals have committed $124 billion over the next 10 years on infrastructure.

And since last fall's election, the PM and his ministers have been fanning out across the country, talking up those plans.

Trudeau Toronto 20160113

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) holds a news conference with Toronto Mayor John Tory at Toronto City Hall, January 13, 2016. (The Canadian Press/Chris Young)

"One of the things that we campaigned on was recognizing that Canada needs more jobs and greater growth. That's what we put forward as a plan to invest in infrastructure, specifically through transit, through green infrastructure, through social infrastructure." - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Toronto with mayor John Tory, last week

Toronto and plenty of other jurisdictions across the country are ready to move.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi at cabinet retreat

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi is at a cabinet retreat in St. Andrews, N.B. The federal Liberals will work on their plans for the year including their upcoming budget. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

 And, with Parliament set to reconvene on Jan. 25, there's going to be a lot of pressure on the government to get specific about where those promised infrastructure billions will be going.

Chief Isadore Day is the regional chief for Ontario at the Assembly of First Nations, and he's looking for Ottawa to investment in his community to combat the impact of climate change.  

Tim Ross is the executive director of the New Brunswick Non Profit Housing Association and he's looking for help from the federal government to create and maintain social housing units
 

"This is not just about building new. What do we do with the existing infrastructure? How do we repair what we have? How do we optimize and modernize the infrastructure that exists now?" - Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi

It's difficult to quantify just what the infrastructure deficit is in Canada, with figures ranging from $127 billion to more than $500 billion.

Matti Siemiatycki is an associate professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto. His main area of research is infrastructure spending and this week he is publishing a paper about cost overruns on infrastructure projects.  
 

We requested an interview with the Minister of Infrastructure Amarjeet Sohi but he deferred the invitation until after the budget is released. 
 

What kinds of projects would you like to see funded under the infrastructure budget?  Let us know how the project you recommend would benefit your community. 

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.