Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP)
|| That this House call on the government to commit in Budget 2013 to a long-term, predictable and accountable federal infrastructure plan in partnership with other levels of government, as recommended by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in order to: (a) improve Canada's lagging productivity; (b) shorten commute times; and (c) fix Canada's crumbling infrastructure.
She said: Mr. Speaker, across the country, getting to work on time is becoming a luxury. Congestion and overcrowded public transit make it harder and harder to get to work on time. From coast to coast, frustrated commuters tell the same stories.
In Toronto, angry office workers stand in the cold while jam-packed street cars rush by. Even if they get on, they are packed in like sardines. In Vancouver suburbs, impatient mothers who have to drop off their kids at school wait forever for a bus to arrive. In Montreal, frustrated college students are late for their classes and jobs because of delays and breakdowns in the aging Metro system.
The average commute time in the Toronto area has reached 82 minutes per day, which is far worse than New York City and Los Angeles, and Vancouver and Montreal are not doing much better. Eighty-two minutes is more than most parents get to spend with their kids playing and reading. Eighty-two minutes means a missed dinner with a partner for hard-working couples. Eighty-two minutes means less time to study and prepare for class for college students.
Traffic gridlock is costing our economy $10 billion a year, with $6 billion in the greater Toronto area alone. At $10 billion, it is more than the GDP of all three territories and P.E.I. combined. In fact, it is bigger than the budget for six provinces. It is huge. This is $10 billion that we lose every year because of gridlock and traffic jams.
For companies, it means less productivity and less competitiveness against their American counterparts. Ultimately, it means fewer jobs; 26,000 fewer jobs in the GTA alone. For parents, it means less time to see their kids grow up. For all levels of government, it means less tax revenue. Therefore, gridlock is a problem we can no longer afford.
Canada's infrastructure problems go beyond the lack of public transit and rising commute times. One out of five roads is in poor or very poor condition. That means potholes and car-sized sinkholes in Ottawa. It means damaged car suspensions. Overpasses and bridges in Montreal and Toronto are becoming unsafe. The Gardiner Expressway has rained concrete six or seven times this year alone on the traffic and pedestrians below.
There are also 200 communities struggling with backwater. The water looks cloudy or tastes and smells funny. In half of these communities, one cannot drink the water without boiling it first or one will get sick. How sad is this, given that clean water is a human right in a country that has the world's largest freshwater supply?
We have unsafe water systems and problems with the roads and bridges that we can no longer afford, and these are not isolated cases. Communities from coast to coast to coast are struggling with lack of transit, potholed roads and unsafe drinking water. They are calling for federal help. They want a long-term federal plan for infrastructure, and they are not alone. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, representing over 2,000 municipal leaders, is calling for a long-term infrastructure plan to be included in the 2013 federal budget, and so is the Canada West Foundation, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, Engineers Canada, and the Canadian Construction Association.
From coast to coast to coast, union groups, organizations and municipal leaders are all calling for the same thing, which is a long-term, predictable and accountable infrastructure plan.
Why is it that the Minister of Transport does not want to listen to mayors and city councillors? Why are commuters and working families ignored by the Conservatives? Why does the minister not want to ride the Toronto subway with me at rush hour so that he can experience the crowded trains, see the commuters left behind on the platform and experience their frustration and anger over lost time?
It is curious that even before today's debate, the minister said last night that he would vote against my motion. He said that before he even listened to the motion. He said no without any debate. He said no without listening to Canadians. He said no without listening to parliamentarians. Frankly, that is contempt for the House of Commons.
Maybe I can guess the reason. Perhaps it is because Conservatives prefer to provide on-and-off funding, which frustrates cities that need predictable funding. Perhaps it is because the Conservatives want a photo op every few days, rather than a 20-year plan that would allow cities to make long-term plans. Maybe it is because they want to hand out gigantic cheques to their insider friends as a reward. Maybe it is because the Conservatives are afraid that if we have a fair distribution that uses objective criteria for funding and for measuring success, they will not be able to make decisions based on partisan considerations. That could be the reason.
The building Canada fund has been too unpredictable and too beholden to partisan interests to really help municipalities. Municipalities now have an infrastructure deficit of $171 billion. That is a huge amount of money on the shoulders of people who pay property taxes. Someone has to pay; the question is who. The people who are paying are those who pay property taxes, those on fixed income, seniors, those who really cannot afford much more. These are the ones who are shouldering this huge deficit of $171 billion. That is why municipalities want an accountable and predictable long-term funding plan. They are tired of a grant system that is used like a lottery. They want a merit-based, predictable transfer.
All the federal government has to do is listen to cities and communities across Canada that have been calling for the same thing for years. They want a federal plan with secure supports for at least 20 years, not a two-year funding cycle. That is how long it takes to develop and build and maintain a long-term infrastructure program, whether it is transit, roads or drinking water.
Our cities need funding that is predictable. Our cities need funding that is allocated in a non-partisan way, like the existing gas tax, on a per capita basis. Our cities need a plan whereby funding grows with non-political measures, such as the economy, population and ridership growth forecasts. Our cities need a plan that has clear criteria and clear targets, targets like cutting specific commute times. We know that what gets measured gets managed, gets results and gets built. Our cities need a plan based on partnership among jurisdictions so that funding can reach provincial and municipal levels of government and the private sector. Our cities and companies need a plan that encourages innovation, efficiency and sustainability so that we can make our transit system greener and unleash Canada's creative potential.
We hope that members of Parliament across the way will stand up for a better quality of life, stand up for a stronger economy and support a long-term federal infrastructure plan so that we can get Canada moving again.
Mr. Robert Aubin (Trois-Rivières, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged to rise here this morning to speak to this motion, since it directly affects everyone in my riding, all Quebeckers and all Canadians. Indeed, infrastructure has a direct impact on our daily lives, for better or for worse—and for the past few years, it has been for worse.
More and more studies and reports have been done across Canada over the years, and their findings are consistent. Analysts have reached the same conclusions: it is time to increase our investment in infrastructure and establish programs that allow municipalities to plan their investment programs over the long term.
That is precisely what today's NDP motion is calling for, and as my colleague, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, explained so well, this motion contains three key requests: to improve Canada's lagging productivity, shorten commute times and fix Canada's infrastructure, whose condition ranges from good to mediocre.
The beautiful thing about these three requests is that working on our infrastructure will allow improvements in all three areas at once.
As we can see, these requests are very specific. They raise economic concerns, and at the same time, highlight issues that affect the daily lives of millions of Canadians, such as commute times.
Finally, the funding of our municipal infrastructure affects each and every one us. It affects the quality of the water that we drink and our access to and use of airports and energy facilities.
Canadians expect the Conservative government to take major positive action in terms of their infrastructure. I say “their infrastructure” because the condition of roads, water systems and bridges and the smooth flow of public transit are issues that affect and concern all Canadians. It is the government's responsibility to quickly meet their expectations. Canadians know that it is time to make major, long-term investments in things that make this country run smoothly.
What can the federal government do, or rather, what is the Conservative government not doing that it should be doing?
A recent Le Devoir headline aptly stated that Canada's infrastructure deficit continues to grow. What does that mean in practical terms?
There is no question that the federal government's contribution to infrastructure is becoming increasingly meagre. Insufficient funding in this area is nothing new, but nothing is currently being done to catch up to other countries. If nothing is done, the bill will just continue to grow as our bridges, roads and water systems age and crumble. Unfortunately, that is what is happening.
In 1980, the value of public infrastructure was 30% of GDP. It is now down to 22% of GDP. This means that our infrastructure is aging, that it is not withstanding the test of time and that its value is dropping while the country's population and needs are increasing. A modern, competitive country cannot let its infrastructure crumble.
To maintain an acceptable level, close to 3% of GDP must be invested annually. The government must take action immediately.
The federal government has reduced its share of investment contributions, which now falls below 15%. It is not because infrastructure costs less than it used to—quite the contrary. That is clear.
The federal government is sticking municipalities with the bill. Municipalities are responsible for 52% of infrastructure, while the provinces are responsible for about 35%. The issue is not just the federal government's transfer of responsibility or debt to the municipal level; the problem is much more complex than that. The municipalities simply do not have the means or tax leverage to take on this enormous responsibility alone. Without the federal government's commitment, our infrastructure will not be modernized and very few municipalities will have the means to invest in the Canada of tomorrow.
The federal government has spent many, many months consulting over 200 municipal, provincial and territorial representatives. For several months now, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has been talking about a sustainable plan. In his speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in November 2012, the minister said:
|| We can all agree that Canada needs a sustainable public infrastructure investment plan to replace the Building Canada Plan in 2014…A plan that will work well into the future.
For lack of a cabinet shuffle the same minister will be voting against the motion that my colleague moved this morning. I was pleased when I heard the minister's statement, but now I would like to see him take action. A long-term plan is exactly what municipalities and the NDP have been asking for, but the minister has never wanted to specify what he means by “long-term”. It seems that three, four or five years could be considered the long term. Or it could be 10 or 15 years. No one knows.
The NDP's position is clear: we believe that a 20-year plan would provide municipalities with the means to truly plan out their investments and would ensure that Canadians and future generations get the basic services needed by communities. If to govern is to plan—to the best of my knowledge, Clemenceau said that—then we should start planning today, assuming the government really does want to govern on behalf of all Canadians.
It is always easy to cut infrastructure spending in order to balance the budget more quickly. However, economic studies prove that such cuts and temporary underfunding have a dramatic impact on subsequent generations. Our children will have to pay for the Conservatives' short-term vision. We are hanging an environmental millstone around the necks of future generations, which will have a hard time overcoming the problems they inherit from us. The Conservatives are about to do the same thing with the economy.
Studies clearly show that government programs for municipal infrastructure have helped significantly slow deficit growth since 2008. These programs are effective. We must keep them going over a longer period. The federal government must commit to bringing in predictable, sustainable long-term funding.
When the government provides only ad hoc funding, long-term projects—such as public transportation—are not eligible for funding. Periodic reviews are needed to ensure that targets are met and to adjust funding. In Quebec, the municipalities already assume the vast majority of the financial responsibility for municipal infrastructure spending without any financial return. The federal government recovers nearly 30% of its investments in financial returns, which shows what a big, impressive economic driver this government can be. It is clear that the federal government must play an active role and commit to making the existing programs permanent.
For five years the NDP has been calling for a permanent infrastructure program to take care of this problem instead of dumping it on local governments.
Since I am quickly running out of time, I will conclude by saying that the federal government must act immediately. Since the building Canada fund expires in 2014 and the money has all been spent already, Canadian municipalities need to know now what to expect so that they can plan carefully and efficiently. Since every $1 billion invested in infrastructure helps create 11,000 jobs, job growth and economic productivity are partially tied to funding from the federal government. Canada cannot afford to ignore this opportunity for growth.
The NDP has heard from representatives of the UMQ, the FQM, the FCM, chambers of commerce, the Toronto Board of Trade, the Canadian Urban Transit Association and Engineers Canada, to name a few, and they all agree that now is the time to play catch-up with upgrading our infrastructure maintenance.
Mr. Merv Tweed (Brandon—Souris, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Essex. I thank the member across the way for the opportunity to discuss this important issue and to put on the record many of the things that the government has already done on behalf of Canadians.
It is easy to say that all governments in Canada recognize the link between infrastructure investments and a strong economy. We have made investments for the short term through the economic action plan, which were timely. These infrastructure investments were made at a time when the Canadian economy needed it the most.
We have made investments through our longer term programs, like the building Canada plan, a plan that has seen government invest in public infrastructure at unprecedented levels. These investments are helping to support productivity and innovation, facilitate trade activities and promote local and regional development.
We are supporting and protecting our trade routes. We are making investments in our highways and roads to help goods and people move freely and efficiently.
Canada is a nation of exports. We need an integrated and efficient transportation system to ensure that our economy remains strong. We are investing in solutions that ensure seamless connections between all forms of transportation, including rail and shipping facilities. Our transportation system is not exclusively for business use. Connecting smaller communities to larger hubs helps stimulate local economies and provide citizens with improved access to health services, jobs, education and training.
While we do that, we continue to protect our environment through investments in waste water treatment, energy district systems and solid waste management, to name a few, all with the idea of helping reduce Canada's footprint on the environment.
We will make it a greener infrastructure for our cities, more livable, and contribute to improving the health of our ecosystems.
To support our communities and our economy, we are making investments in efficient public transportation systems. These improved systems help move commuters to and from work, home and play, and help our cities attract and retain businesses and talented people.
Since 2006, our government has made unprecedented investments in Canada's infrastructure. In 2007, we launched the seven-year $33 billion building Canada plan, which provided long-term support for infrastructure priorities across the country. The building Canada plan supports projects that contribute to a stronger economy, cleaner air and water, safer roads, shorter commutes and stronger communities.
This includes large-scale projects, such as the Summerside wind farm in Prince Edward Island, the Mackenzie Valley winter road in the Northwest Territories, right down to projects in small communities, such as renovations to the Austin community centre in Manitoba or the upgrades to the well house in Bath, New Brunswick.
The NDP, with its doctrine approach, was systematically opposed to any help from our government to those communities.
Included under the building Canada plan is the gas tax fund, which provides predictable, long-term funding for Canadian municipalities to help them build and revitalize public infrastructure. I know this is one of the most important decisions this government has made, and I hear that continuously from the communities I represent. Making it a permanent fixture allows for predictability and enables them to work into the future.
The gas tax fund is stable and reliable, and municipalities can pool, bank or borrow against the fund for long-term infrastructure priorities. I do know that the 3,600 municipalities have benefited from the financial support and flexibility the program offers.
An example is the community of Brackley, a rural farming community north of Charlottetown, which has used gas tax funds to build a multi-use trail along Route 15. This trail promotes physical activity and provides walkers, runners, cyclists and rollerbladers with a safe place to enjoy more active forms of transportation.
In times of crisis, when the need was immediate, we showed we were able to act quickly and deliver on our promises. In 2009, the world was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and Canadians were facing the most severe economic challenge in a generation.
In response, we launched the economic action plan. In my opinion, the plan was an unqualified success that is still generating jobs, stimulating the economy and providing benefits to Canadians this day. We have done that, and opposition members on the other side voted against it. The plan accelerated existing infrastructure funding and delivered $14.5 billion in new funding for public infrastructure through programs such as the infrastructure stimulus fund. The program provided funding in the short term, when it was needed most, for projects that were shovel-ready and could begin construction immediately.
After listing all those investments made by our government, I admit I am confused with the New Democrats' position. If infrastructure is important for them, how is it that they have voted against every single one of our attempts to support the provinces, territories and municipalities with their infrastructure priorities? I cannot explain it. How could they vote against every attempt to support these communities?
I will refresh the opposition members' memory. In 2007, the New Democrats voted against a $33 billion building Canada fund. In 2009, they voted against thousands of economic action plan infrastructure programs that went all across Canada. In 2011, the New Democrats voted against legislation making the gas tax fund transfer permanent, not once but twice. If infrastructure was important to the New Democrats, they should have woken up and supported the government's position. Never in the history of Canada has the federal government done so much in support of infrastructure.
As members can see, the Government of Canada is concerned about this country's public infrastructure and has done more than any federal government in recent history to advance and improve the infrastructure programming for all of Canada. At the same time, we remain sensitive to the ongoing deficit and the need to balance the budget. As we work with our partners to shape the future of infrastructure and infrastructure funding in Canada, we will be ever conscious of the needs of the taxpayers, the economy and the environment.
Mr. Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to discuss our government's record investment in infrastructure to benefit our country, literally from sea to sea, from the northern coast all the way down to our southern coast.
Since 2006, our government has made record levels of investments in infrastructure through initiatives such as the $33 billion building Canada plan and infrastructure investments made under Canada's economic action plan.
On the one hand, the seven-year building Canada plan is providing long-term funding for small and large-scale projects across the country. Just this past Friday, I was in Lakeshore making an announcement that the federal government will be committing up to $17.3 million from the building Canada fund, a major infrastructure component, for a new multi-use recreation facility in that community.
On the other hand, Canada's economic action plan was designed to provide targeted, timely, temporary funding during the recession for shovel-ready construction projects in the short term.
In Windsor—Essex, for example, we had the highest per capita infrastructure stimulus in the country to combat the highest unemployment in Canada, leading to projects such as investments in the new Centre for Engineering Innovation at the University of Windsor, the new MediaPlex and a Centre for Applied Health Sciences at St. Clair College, new modernizations and improvements at Your Quick Gateway, YQG, our airport, and a new MURF in Amherstburg. These are projects that were needed in that short-term period that are making a difference in the long term.
More than 50% of the build Canada plan, some $17.6 billion, goes to municipalities to fund their priorities through the gas tax fund and through the 100% GST rebate. Through these two initiatives, every municipality in the country is receiving stable and predictable funding.
I would like to remind my colleagues opposite, though they may want to forget, that the NDP voted against this support for Canadian municipalities. By way of fact, the gas tax fund doubled on April 1, 2009, from $1 billion to $2 billion per year. The NDP was opposed to that.
On December 15, 2011, Bill C-13, which was entitled Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act, received royal assent. This delivered on our government's budget 2011 commitment to legislate the gas tax fund permanently at $2 billion a year. Municipalities can count on this stable funding for their infrastructure needs now and in the future. However, they cannot count on the NDP, which voted against this on every single occasion.
To date, more than 3,600 municipalities across Canada have benefited from the financial support and the flexibility the gas tax fund program offers. Municipalities can choose to pool their funds and bank or borrow against them, meaning that municipalities can spend their funding when they choose to do so. They do not have to spend it as soon as it comes in. They can save their funds for a few select larger projects or can use them for many smaller ones. As a result of this flexibility, in the period from 2005 to 2011 municipalities earned over $88 million in interest, which they could then use for additional local infrastructure renewal.
Municipalities can choose to invest all or part of their funding allocations in program categories such as drinking water and waste water systems, solid waste management, community energy systems, public transit, local roads or even capacity building. Since its inception, municipalities across Canada have reported that the gas tax fund has helped them fund over 13,000 individual projects. There is a great interactive map on the Association of Municipalities of Ontario website that shows where all these projects are across Essex County and Ontario, for example.
With each of these infrastructure projects come important jobs and results that improve quality of life in our communities. I remind members that the NDP voted to turn down support for these 13,000 projects. I think that bears some shame.
If we look at Canada's six largest cities, approximately 80% of the gas tax fund allocation is invested in public transit. Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton devote 100% of their gas tax fund monies to public transit.
Toronto has used its gas tax funding to purchase 204 new streetcars to replace aging light rail vehicles. The City of Ottawa has used its gas tax funds to renew and modify its transit bus fleets. Other regions are also using their gas tax fund allocations to make their public transit services more accessible for their ridership. Peel region, with its TransHelp accessible transportation service, is an example. Some 2,000 new customers and an 8% to 10% annual increase in trip capacity resulted from that investment, with a record 400,000-plus trips reported in 2010.
Of course, public transit is not the only focus of the gas tax fund for Canadian communities. The next largest investment priority for Canadian municipalities is local roads and bridges, followed by water and then waste water. For example, if we look eastward to New Brunswick, the City of Bathurst upgraded its water and sanitary systems using gas tax funds. As a result of these upgrades, the process at the waste water treatment plant has been improved to meet provincial effluent quality standards, and further efficiencies are expected to improve the quality of drinking water.
If we look north, and having a young Inuit daughter I like to look northward, their communities benefit from the gas tax funds as well. In the north, it is a little different. Northern communities receive a base funding amount instead of an allocation based on population. That just means that less populated jurisdictions receive sufficient funds to build and revitalize their local infrastructure.
The Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut will each have received $97.5 million for community infrastructure from the gas tax fund between 2005 to 2014. The City of Iqaluit was able to use gas tax funds to replace its water pipe system, which has ensured a dependable supply of safe drinking water for residents for years to come.
Gas tax funds are also used to support capacity-building initiatives in northern communities, including long-term community planning. In remote locations, with sparse populations and a difficult northern climate, local infrastructure planning is especially complex and challenging. When combined with limited access to planning resources and expertise, funding for capacity building and planning becomes even more important.
The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation community used gas tax funds to establish sustainability goals and to develop a community planning program. Through this exercise, it was able to complete two key community infrastructure planning projects that focused on land development and community housing needs. It was able to keep citizens informed through a newsletter and provided opportunity for input. As a result, its integrated community sustainability plan was able to include new areas of focus, covering everything from public transit and walking trails to drinking water, sewage, green energy projects and other community infrastructure needs.
We have given this flexible funding to municipalities in all corners of the country, despite the NDP's systematic opposition.
I would like to point out that closer to home, in the far south of Canada, the gas tax fund continues to modernize important local infrastructure, whether it is reconstruction of the Canard River overpass, repaving on Gesto Road, road reconstruction in the heart of Kingsville or county roads across Lakeshore.
The gas tax fund will continue to deliver results for local infrastructure priorities for years to come. We look forward to seeing the benefits in our communities. I am pleased to note that a $2 billion per year gas tax fund is one of our government's largest, and now permanent, programs dedicated to infrastructure funding for our country. From British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, from the Yukon and Nunavut to Essex County, Ontario, the gas tax fund plays an important role in supporting infrastructure renewal and in creating jobs. Communities, large and small alike, benefit and can continue to rely on this stable, predictable funding.
Hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely thrilled to begin my speech by replying to my hon. colleague from Essex.
This debate is far too serious to play the “my dad is stronger than your dad” game. The Liberals invented the infrastructure program and really emphasized it. This is not about what has been done, but what we can do right now, and that is the goal of my colleague's motion. We are not judging what has already been done. We can be critical and partisan. Besides, it was minority Liberal governments that helped bring forward this kind of budget.
What is important today is to reflect appropriately on the federal government's role in relation to the municipalities. We must not get caught up in a constitutional dispute, since some will say that municipalities are creatures of the provinces. The reality is that sharing, funding and pilot projects will help improve people's quality of life.
The Liberal Party and I will be supporting today's motion. We believe that not only is it important to do so, but the motion itself is also consistent with our party's position on infrastructure.
Indeed, we need an effective strategy and we need to listen to our constituents. As my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher said earlier, we now have an infrastructure deficit of $171 billion. What is more, we also know that over 30% of existing infrastructure is failing and in deplorable condition. Of course, no single municipality or provincial government will be able to resolve the situation.
At present, we have a serious governance problem. One of the most important measures that we need to adopt is what is known as “dedicated funds”. Now, we have a certain amount of money, we set that money aside and we do not necessarily know where that money will go. If we want to be effective when it comes to transportation, housing and infrastructure, we need to bring back the notion of “dedicated funds” for urban transit and basic infrastructure. When it comes to infrastructure, if we are talking more and more about sustainable development, we also need to do things differently, to do them correctly.
We must find a new way to invest more, particularly in the greater Montreal area, where there are problems with bridges and public transportation. This is the digital age and we have new management methods, as my colleague, the official opposition transport critic, said, and the whole notion of productivity is closely tied to infrastructure.
That is why the Prime Minister at the time, Paul Martin, was the first to talk about bringing back the gas tax. I commend this Conservative government for having the good sense to make it permanent. Just because we are in the opposition does not mean that we must oppose everything. Of the many initiatives put forward at the time, making this tax permanent was a good thing, but we must now double it and index it.
It is an ongoing process. We need to make sure that from now on it is not only permanent, but it is indexed and doubled. This is key.
My colleague from Essex was right when he talked about its importance to municipalities, but it is not a one-shot deal. We need to find a better way with these dedicated funds to provide the right funding for the future. It is a good policy, so we have to go further than that, I would suggest.
One of the problems was that we thought we knew the Conservatives' track record since 2007. The reality is that we will renew this plan in 2014. If we want to do so, we must start now to develop benchmarks for the future. We must think in terms of dedicated funds and also long-term funding.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, for one, is talking about planning for up to 20 years. This must be the start of a discussion on governance. We may be able to think about a 20-year span, but with renewals every five years. Do we need benchmarks? They do not necessarily need to be written in stone.
We definitely need to redefine the long-term vision. We can no longer operate only in the short term. In the current context, we also often need to take measures that will give the municipalities the tools they need—updated tools—even if they are receiving money on a permanent basis. Unfortunately, this is too often not enough. The Liberal Party is supportive of a long-term fiscal commitment to municipal infrastructure.
We have been calling for predictable and sustainable funding for a long time. We need to redefine what we mean by “infrastructure” in order to determine whether we are referring to productivity, housing or other aspects.
When I was president of the Privy Council, I called it “smart regulation”. We need to bring back the notion of smart cities. Smart cities mean smart citizens and smart regulations. It is not just based on mortar; different digital strategies have to be put forward as well.
We are proud of our country. However, people identify less and less with their country or continent and, instead, identify with their city. We must go beyond the issue of jurisdiction and share tools interdepartmentally. It is no good to have a department responsible for infrastructure. Human resources, the Minister of Industry and the person responsible for innovation must work together to acquire the necessary tools. The word “infrastructure” must be clearly defined.
For that reason, I think we must consider holding a federal-provincial conference. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister may be meeting with premiers individually instead. It has been too long since the last federal-provincial conference. We need a specific strategy for infrastructure and the future of the municipalities. We must develop tools in order to improve people's quality of life. I am thinking about green infrastructure, digital infrastructure and core infrastructure.
Montreal is having major problems despite all the money invested. We are still losing 40% of our drinking water, despite current investments. We do not need just the money that is currently being invested. We also need to acquire the necessary tools so that the government can invest more. As hon. members know, entities other than the Canadian government are responsible for over 60% of all infrastructure projects.
The government needs to develop a national public transit strategy with funding of its own, and a national general infrastructure and funding strategy.
Above all, I think that the government must avoid partisanship. It has to give itself permission to commend past investments and it has to come up with the right tools. There is still a long road ahead and a lot of work to do.
Earlier, the hon. member for Essex was talking about all the money from the building Canada fund. Instead of talking in concrete terms about the future, he said that the Conservatives have invested more than the Liberals. I would like to point out that an extraordinary minister, a prominent politician and a great Canadian, Herb Gray, also played a role in his region. We do not need to get into who is better. We need to start recognizing the infrastructure sector.
It is an ongoing issue. It is not just based on what one has done in the past, or if one has invested more than another. It is all about what is in it for the future. The more we invest for the future, the more impact we will have on the quality of our lives, on sustainable development and on other policies. However, we have to realize that if we do not have that kind of strategy, it will have an impact on human resources.
As a former minister of immigration, I was always there to discuss with my counterparts the future within the cities. For example, 87% of all the immigration goes through Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Of course, we need that kind of dialogue. We need the infrastructure. We need the transport because it has a direct impact on quality of life. This is not just an infrastructure debate; it is all about what kind of society we want to live in and what the future should be for our great country.
This motion may be the beginning of an interesting debate. As my party's critic for transport, infrastructure and communities, I already started having this conversation on the future of infrastructure at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I imagine there is a cause and effect relationship between that and the NDP's opposition motion. That is why we are in favour of this motion and why it must be adopted.
I think we need to take this debate further. This is an extremely broad issue. As far as repairs are concerned, we are talking about improving productivity in Canada, as I was saying earlier, and we are talking about partnership and transparent funding for the long term.
There is another important aspect that the government side touched on earlier.
It is important to make sure we are not living in a one-size-fits-all, so for every policy and program we promote, it is also important that we realize it is not just the major cities, but all the communities. If we want to make sure we are inclusive and everyone feels like a first class citizen, we will have to make sure we are listening to them.
This is an opportunity to counter cynicism. All political parties in this House must work together on this. It is a motion. We are constantly reminded by this government that a motion is not really binding. In my opinion, this could be the start of a worthwhile debate.
When I go out to speak to the people in my riding of Bourassa and the people of my city, Montreal—I am referring to the Montreal metropolitan area—many people talk to us about this issue. They do not have questions about the Constitution. They believe that we are all part of the solution and that we have specific work to do.
We have talked about social development and sustainable development. However, economic development is extremely important. If we want to be one of the world's great countries, and if we want to ensure that all cities can accommodate more businesses, it is important that our cities have decent infrastructure. Canada is an exporting country and does a huge amount of business with the rest of the world. We have to study what infrastructure can do for economic development and quality of life.
For example, as we prepare to enter into a free trade agreement with Europe, we must ensure that we put this infrastructure in place, because when European businesses want to become established in Canada, they will go to Montreal and have a look at the infrastructure. This is not just about the cities and provinces. When these people arrive, we welcome them to Canada. If we really want to welcome them to Canada, we have to ensure that we build proper infrastructure and that we work towards that.
I am very pleased to have participated in the debate on today's motion and, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I can say that we will support this motion.
Ms. Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Beaches—East York.
I am very pleased to rise today to speak to the motion introduced by my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina. I sit on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, where, week after week, we witness the Conservatives' failure to do something about the infrastructure-related problem that will arise in a year when the Building Canada Fund expires.
At the start of his speech, the Conservative member said that investing in infrastructure means investing in community development. I entirely agree with him, but I do not see how he can say that, then turn around and say that he will be voting against our motion, because that is what the motion is about. We want a stable, long-term, non-partisan infrastructure investment plan.
When we say infrastructure, we are talking about four classes: roads, highways, the sewer system and water treatment and supply facilities, and bridges. The current application-based process is flawed. We noted that when we conducted a public transit study.
For example, if a community says it needs a better sewer system, it cannot also apply for its public transit system because that would cause several of its projects to compete with one another. What is also unfortunate about individual applications, and we are currently seeing this, is that it is very easy for a majority government such as this one to make partisan decisions, to favour certain communities because they vote for the government and to fund projects that will improve the lives of the citizens of those communities while the community next door, particularly Quebec, will not receive much because it does not vote for the government. That is what I find unfortunate.
I will begin by saying exactly what we want, and then I will cite specific examples of the problems Montreal and my riding face every day, problems that could be solved by agreeing to the motion my colleague is introducing today.
We are asking for the necessary tools to manage infrastructure funding effectively. We want an effective long-term infrastructure plan to be announced in the 2013 budget, a plan based on ongoing consultations with the provinces, territories, municipalities and aboriginal communities. This government consults less than most, even though it has boasted all morning that it is conducting consultations. We want this to be written down so that we can see it happen.
Like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we want a 20-year plan, one that permits better long-term planning and support for long-term projects. Ultimately, if a municipality wants to carry out a long-term project—I just heard my Liberal colleague mention a football stadium in Sherbrooke—that represents enormous costs for it. We need to know that there is a federal fund that will help us support that. The federal government is providing a smaller and smaller percentage of infrastructure-related costs. A 20-year plan would enable us to do a better job of planning projects and federal government support for major projects.
Next, we want the plan to include clear targets and funding criteria. We want transparent, accountable, non-partisan funding mechanisms to facilitate the application process. As I explained earlier, partisanship is the order of the day right now, so we want a plan that will prevent that from happening.
As well, we want a plan that encourages the use of innovative technologies for greater efficiency and sustainability. We want to set aside funds for replacing and expanding infrastructure in rural, remote and northern regions, and for public transit, to reduce commuting times between home and work.
Public transit is a major issue for Montreal, so I am going to say a little more about that. I will start with two quotations that support my argument. Quebec's transportation ministry produced a report on traffic congestion that says:
|| By 2016, the number of trips per day in the Montreal metropolitan area will increase by two million, a 25% increase, and we will have to manage 10.2 million trips per day.
This goes to show that we have a lot of congestion in Montreal. As further evidence, I read about a TomTom GPS survey in The Gazette. I quote:
|| A North American traffic survey conducted by the TomTom GPS manufacturer found that of the 26 cities studied, Montreal ranked number four when it came to traffic delays. ... Montrealers are delayed a total of 92 hours a year because of traffic jams.
So we are wasting 92 hours of our lives sitting in our cars. That is incredible.
People in my riding are coping with some really serious problems. Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Lachine, Dorval and Montreal West are located on the west side of Montreal. Unfortunately, I do not have a metro station in my riding because I live on the outskirts. We manage with the commuter trains and the bus system, which are unfortunately not very efficient.
MPs from Montreal met with the STM officials two weeks ago to talk about this. I asked them what was happening. In my riding, when I travel from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce to Lachine by car, it takes me 10 minutes. Walking is not really an option; it would take an hour because it involves crossing highway 20. Buses are rare, and they take about an hour and a half. Some of my employees who live in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, in my relatively small riding, spend over an hour on the bus.
Constituents have called me to say that they would like to come and see me at my office, but that getting there is a problem. The Loyola campus of Concordia University is in my riding. A lot of students find this situation difficult. The 92 hours they spend on public transit means 92 hours they cannot spend studying or working, if they need to work because tuition fees are high, but that is a whole different issue.
This is really a problem. These people who come to see me are families who cannot spend time with their children, or partners who see less of each other. It is sad.
The Train de l'Ouest—the line from Vaudreuil to downtown—is another project in my riding. We have a lot of problems with that line. It is the only train that travels fairly quickly from my riding to downtown Montreal, but not often. There are 16 trains a day, and we are having trouble getting more funding to completely rebuild the western line. It will be very expensive. We do not yet know what is going to happen with this project. The federal government has not promised to provide enough money to improve the situation. This affects my constituents’ quality of life.
I find it sad for the people who voted for the Conservatives. Their slogan was: my region in power. If the people voted for the Conservatives, money would flow to the riding. If they did not vote for the Conservatives, then there would be no money. Senator Smith, who at the time was running in Lac-Saint-Louis, said that if constituents wanted the Train de l'Ouest, then they needed to vote for him. Sadly, it seems he was right.
I would like to conclude by mentioning another misguided infrastructure project in my riding, namely the Vendôme metro station. It is not accessible. A person with disabilities cannot access the metro, yet the new Montreal hospital is under construction a mere 20 minutes away.
We want a stable, long-term, non-partisan infrastructure plan, one that addresses problems of this nature. Right now, the situation is discouraging. I hope the 2013 budget contains a plan. VIA Rail was hit with massive cuts, which is very sad.
I hope that the government will continue to invest in infrastructure and give us projects that make sense.
Mr. Matthew Kellway (Beaches—East York, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the NDP opposition day motion put forward by my colleague, a champion of Canadian municipalities, the member for Trinity—Spadina.
The basis for the motion today is fundamentally economic, and it is succinctly captured in the submission from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to the government on this matter last November. The introduction to that submission reads in part:
|| Municipal infrastructure provides the foundation on which our economy rests. Small businesses need quality roads and bridges to deliver goods and services. Workers need fast, efficient public transit to connect them with jobs. And growing companies count on high-quality community services, from libraries to hockey rinks, to attract skilled workers. Yet today, those foundations are buckling under the strain.
In these terms, support for today's motion seems pretty obvious, and so it is that there is a broad near consensus outside of this House for the motion we are discussing today. As we will hear throughout the day, the call for a long-term, predictable, accountable federal infrastructure plan in partnership with other levels of government is supported by business leaders, trade unions, economists, civil society organizations, experts of all kinds and, of course, municipal leaders.
I say “near consensus” because there are still those who seem to lie outside this consensus. They are, curiously enough, the two federal parties, the Conservatives and Liberals, who have swapped power back and forth over the last 40-plus years, as they withdrew investment, indeed withdrew the federal government, and watched the foundations of our economy and municipalities crumble.
In seven years of government, the Conservatives have yet to even acknowledge the urban reality of the country we live in, the fact that nearly 80% of Canadians live in cities. They seem entirely incapable of imagining a Canadian economy other than resource extraction or a Canadian economy led by the necessarily social urban process of innovation. Thus, we get the dismantling of federal environmental framework to facilitate resource extraction, in place of a modern and environmentally sustainable economic strategy that sees cities as the place to research, develop, create, innovate and exploit the enormous opportunities to tackle climate change.
The Liberal Party is the same, having reduced infrastructure funding throughout the 1990s. It has never given more than lip service and pennies when real full dollars were called for. More than that, it downloaded federal fiscal challenges to other orders of government, ultimately to our cities, which is the order of government least able to maintain, much less build, infrastructure, collecting, as they do, only eight cents on the dollar in tax revenue.
We can watch the trend line of investment in infrastructure as it goes steadily down from its high of about 3% of GDP in the late 1950s and early 1960s, to bouncing along the bottom through the latest Liberal majority governments at about 1.5%. That difference represents about $24 billion in missing annual investment in public infrastructure, according to a recent study. That same study shows that net investment in infrastructure was actually negative for two years of Liberal government, as existing public infrastructure stock depreciated faster than new development.
Now, if all else had stayed the same, that would be one thing; that would be trouble enough. However, the technological, political and economic context has been changing as well over the last 40 years. Broadly, we call it “globalization”, but the implication is that old ways of governance have to give way to new ways of governance that recognize the political and economic importance of urban regions and economies. As one observer put it, “A practical implication is that cities have become central to the study of federalism”.
Therefore, this motion takes place in the context of Canadian federal politics that is and has been for very many years out of step with the rest of the developed world in terms of its understanding and respect for the role of our cities in a global economy in generating wealth for our country. In most other developed countries and economies, governments have become major players in the financial, economic and cultural life of their cities, and it is past time for ours to do the same.
Instead, we are left with this enormous infrastructure deficit, estimated at over $170 billion. It is a deficit that is so obvious to every citizen of my city, the city of Toronto.
We have famed urbanist and urban economist Jane Jacobs, who could say of Toronto in 1969, “Here is the most hopeful and healthy city in North America, still unmangled, still with options”. By 2004, in her book Dark Age Ahead, she described the town that she had made her home as “a city in crisis; indeed, multiple crises”. However, one need not have the keen eye of Jacobs to be frustrated and concerned. As the Conservatives and Liberals swapped power back and forth over the last 40 years, the contours of these crises, to use Jacobs' term, became increasingly obvious.
For those who have not witnessed their emergence, as Jacobs did, the transition over 40-plus years has been amply and convincingly recorded in statistics and maps by University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski and colleagues. That could take us through 40 years of growing social and spatial inequity and economic decline in a kind of tour de force of time-lapse cartography. The final image we are left with is a Toronto that has been divided into three socially, economically and spatially discrete cities within the city, with great swaths of Toronto's geography characterized by the absence of infrastructure. These are infrastructure deserts of various kinds.
We have in Toronto what the Toronto board of trade calls “a conundrum”, a city of strong economic fundamentals, but not world-leading productivity, GDP or disposable income growth. With the Toronto region providing nearly 50% of Ontario's GDP and 20% of Canada's GDP, solving this conundrum seems imperative. The board of trade itself points to infrastructure as what needs to be addressed first and foremost. It describes it as “the biggest threat to our continued growth and economic prosperity in the Toronto region and Ontario generally”.
While the lack of infrastructure, and the crumbling infrastructure generally, poses an enormous obstacle to Toronto's growth and prosperity, it is public transit that is the top priority of the board's members because of “its outsized impact on the Toronto region's global competitiveness”. This is an analysis and priority shared by many other organizations studying Toronto's economy in the global context.
As of 2006, it was estimated that the cost of congestion to the economy of the Toronto region was $6 billion annually. That is an old figure now. However, the outlook is even more grim as Toronto continues to grow, with one of the fastest urban growth rates globally. Every year we add about 100,000 people to our city, so that within 20 years Toronto will be 50% bigger. Absent any significant action, the productivity cost of poor public transit will skyrocket to an estimated $15 billion annually. In terms that are more easy to relate to, that means Toronto commuters, already experiencing the longest commute times in North America, can look forward to spending an extra three work weeks per year stuck in traffic.
We are the only OECD and G8 country without a national transit strategy. At our economic peril, do we continue to be so. It is well past time for the government to drop its aversion to thinking ahead and put in place, in partnership with other levels of government, a long-term, predictable infrastructure plan. Join the consensus.
The crises that Jane Jacobs referred to are, in her terms, “the tangible consequences of tangible mistakes”. They need not be so forever. We can fix these problems and grasp the great opportunities that lie before us. To start, we should support today's motion.
Mr. Larry Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this opposition motion today. I do not know whether I would use the word “ironic” or “humourous” to describe how, finally, after seven years, New Democrats have realized that we need infrastructure in this country. Hopefully, they will support and recognize some of the things that we have done.
The record of our government on infrastructure is very obvious and very strong. We believe that modern, world-class public infrastructure is vitally important across the country. It provides the foundation for vibrant, prosperous communities while at the same time creating jobs and strengthening our economy.
Our government has made a commitment to develop a new approach to infrastructure. We have developed an approach to infrastructure investments that is providing long-term, predictable funding for both large-scale and local priorities, the building Canada plan. Launched in 2007, a $33 billion building Canada plan was an unprecedented federal investment in the nation's infrastructure. The building Canada plan provides funding over seven years and includes several programs and initiatives, including the building Canada fund, the provincial-territorial base fund and the gas tax fund.
Taken together, these and other programs represent a comprehensive suite of infrastructure investments providing funding over a seven-year timeframe. This is the longest commitment that any government in recent history has made to infrastructure. The programs provide the flexibility to meet local needs while supporting national priorities.
I want to highlight how these programs are playing an important role in supporting and renewing public infrastructure across the country.
It is important to underline that when the global economic downturn in 2009 hit the Canadian economy, our government supplemented existing infrastructure funding programs by providing timely, targeted and temporary funding, such as topping up the building Canada fund communities component and launching the infrastructure stimulus fund.
The building Canada fund provides funding through a dual approach. It addresses national and regional priorities as well as community initiatives. The major infrastructure component of the fund focuses on larger strategic projects of national and regional significance that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits; the communities component supports local initiatives through funding set aside for projects in communities with populations of less than 100,000.
I want to point out that I will be splitting my time with the hon. Minister of State (Transport).
The communities component recognizes the unique infrastructure needs of Canada's smaller communities and focuses on projects that meet economic, environmental and quality-of-life objectives. Originally established at $1 billion, the fund received a $500 million top-up in 2009 under the economic action plan. To date, that program has funded more than 1,400 smaller-scale projects that improve water, waste water, public transit, local roads and other types of community infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, I know that many of those projects were in your riding, my riding and the ridings of many other members in the House. The NDP decided to abandon smaller communities by not supporting that government action.
While the major infrastructure component of the building Canada fund targets larger-scale projects, these projects can be found in both big cities and small communities. They are projects that not only benefit the communities in which they are located but have farther-reaching benefits that are of regional and national importance. Through this fund we are seeing the concrete and lasting results of strategic investments in water and waste water treatment. We are supporting the movement of people and goods through investments in public transit and in our national transportation system.
For example, residents in Nipigon, Ontario, recently celebrated the completion of upgrades to their waste water treatment centre. These upgrades mean an improvement in the quality of water released into Nipigon Bay on Lake Superior, supporting the health of local residents and helping to reduce pollution in an environmentally sensitive area. This is another example of how we should care about Canada, and if New Democrats care about Canada, they should have supported that action plan.
We are contributing funding toward the completion of ring roads around Calgary and Edmonton. These ring roads will improve traffic flows, lower collision rates and streamline shipping routes in and around the two cities. Reducing traffic does not seem to be a priority of the NDP.
In Pictou County, Nova Scotia, residents are taking advantage of opportunities to get fit and stay active thanks to the recent completion of the Pictou Country Wellness Centre.
Although the building Canada fund was established for a seven-year period, funding will continue to flow beyond 2014 as construction continues on projects.
I want to talk a bit about the provincial-territorial base fund. Through this fund, provinces and territories receive predictable, stable, flexible funding geared toward their priorities. The funding is streamlined, with simplified administrative requirements. Through the fund, each province and territory was allocated a total of $175 million, receiving $25 million each year over the seven years of the program. Under the economic action plan, jurisdictions were given the additional flexibility of accelerated access to the funding in support of economic recovery.
Flexibility is not a word in the NDP dictionary, so as a dogmatic party, it also voted against this initiative.
The provincial-territorial base fund is supporting upgrades to Chilliwack's east dike that will increase flood protection to more than 40,000 people residing in the flood plain. These upgrades will help increase protection for critical infrastructure such as rail lines, the Trans-Canada Highway, oil and gas infrastructure, utilities, hospital and care facilities and a waste water treatment plant. The funding is also supporting the widening and paving of the Trans-Labrador Highway between Red Bay and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The Trans-Labrador Highway is the region's primary public road, crossing some of northeastern Canada's most remote terrain. These are significant highway improvements that will create numerous local jobs, drive economic growth and strengthen the communities there.
Just last Friday, together with the Government of Alberta, we marked the completion of 12 important highway infrastructure initiatives that are also supporting economic growth across that province. Communities across Alberta are benefiting from safer roads and improved traffic flow, which is promoting growth, job creation and economic prosperity.
To meet the unique needs and circumstances in the small communities of the three northern territories, the government combined the building Canada fund allocation in the territories with its P-T base fund allocations. The combined funding is delivered under the terms and conditions of the P-T base fund, which gives the territories considerable flexibility in addressing their infrastructure needs.
In Nunavut, Kugluktuk residents are benefiting from a new two-storey hamlet office. The building brings all hamlet employees together under one roof to increase productivity, improve service to the public and reduce operating costs. This hamlet office will have a positive impact on local residents and businesses for years to come.
Next is the gas tax fund. This is something that I and many others in the House lobbied for while we were in municipal politics. We always felt that it should come back. Even though the NDP voted against it twice, the gas tax fund allocation is now permanent, providing $2 billion per year in predictable and long-term infrastructure funding to Canada's cities and towns for local priorities. The program provides considerable flexibility. The funds do not have to be matched, they can be banked for future years and they do no require upfront application processes for individual projects. Through the gas tax fund we are providing provinces, territories and municipalities with stable, long-term funding geared toward their priorities. The funding is streamlined and flexible, with simplified administrative requirements.
Our government has a proven track record of providing infrastructure investments that are tailored and targeted to meet specific infrastructure needs. We are providing targeted investments that focus on both community and large-scale infrastructure, supporting priorities such as clean drinking water and transportation infrastructure.
Our government continues to deliver infrastructure funding that is supporting strong communities and strengthening our economy. The last thing the government would do is implement a huge, costly, job-losing carbon tax.
Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Transport), CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to highlight the action our government has taken to support Canadian communities and to create jobs. Our government has played an important role in strengthening Canadian communities. It helped drive economic development well before 2009 when the world's economy took a turn for the worse.
Because of our quick and decisive action, today Canada boasts the strongest rate of employment growth among the G7 countries. The timely support of the Canadian action plan and Canada's solid economic fundamentals have enabled our country and our economy to weather a period of continuing global uncertainty. Our government will continue to focus on creating jobs and growth for Canadians across our great nation.
Thanks in part to our strategic community and economic development programs, we have seen the creation of 900,000 net new jobs since the end of the recession. To continue to encourage economic growth as part of economic action plan 2012, our government announced the creation of the community infrastructure improvement fund, commonly known as CIIF.
CIIF builds on our commitment to further modernize Canada's infrastructure by committing $150 million over two years to support repairs and improvements to existing community facilities. The program supports the beating hearts of Canadian communities, such as community centres, libraries, parks, museums and sports fields, from coast to coast to coast. They are the places where families, friends and neighbours gather.
It is also an important part of our plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians right across the country. In Saskatchewan, my colleague, the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced significant funding for the Kenaston swimming pool. That was made possible thanks to funding from this federal government.
In total, the minister announced $46 million in funding across western Canada. I am delighted to see that the funding has met with the same enthusiasm right across the country. We are going to be working on approximately 300 projects that have already been announced throughout the west.
As of today, in British Columbia, we have already announced 80 of these projects. They are under way and are benefiting Canadians across the province. For example, Castlegar and District Public Library will have improved energy efficiency through the replacement of the library's heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. In addition, our government has helped the district of North Vancouver rehabilitate Maplewood Farm to increase visitor use and to improve accessibility. Since opening in 1975, Maplewood Farm has become a hub of community activity and is one of North Vancouver District's most popular visitor attractions. It receives over 90,000 visitors per year.
In Alberta, nearly 90 projects are helping to revitalize key community infrastructure. For example, upgrades to the Walsh and District Community Hall will improve the accessibility of the kitchen for mobility impaired individuals. The renovations will ensure that members of the community can easily and affordably access the hall.
Federal funding under CIIF is also supporting the expansion of soccer turf at Calgary's Foothills indoor soccer centre as well as the installation of protective boards and netting.
In Saskatchewan, there are over 60 jobs, including extensive renovations to the Learning Disabilities Association of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. In addition to mechanical and electrical upgrades, clients and staff will have a new kitchen, automatic doors to the foyer and three new washrooms that meet accessibility standards.
In the village of Paradise Hill, our government is supporting upgrades that will enhance public safety. Renovations to the arena include the installation of new posts and tempered safety glass on the boards surrounding the ice surface.
In Manitoba, my home province, over 70 projects have already been announced. A CIIF investment is helping the Royal Canadian Legion Charleswood Branch in Winnipeg become more energy efficient by replacing its roof, two rooftop heating and air conditioning units, and the lighting system.
We have also invested in the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans facility to improve its parking lot. We are investing in the St. James Civic Centre Pool to help with renovations. We have provided money for the Assiniboia Curling Club and the Charleswood Curling Club. These are all community-run organizations that would not have been able to make the changes necessary if it were not for the grants from the federal government.
While we are on Manitoba, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Plessis underpass. The federal government, through the building Canada fund, has put in a substantial amount of money, fulfilling a local campaign promise to make transit much better for the people of the Elmwood—Transcona area. I would like to thank the member for Elmwood—Transcona for all his hard work on that project.
I could go on and on. There has been $146 million for recreational infrastructure projects in the four western provinces.
Over the last seven years, $33 billion has been invested in the building Canada fund, which was introduced in 2007 and was Canada first long-term infrastructure plan. It will continue to deliver results until 2014 and beyond.
As my colleague mentioned, we made the gas tax permanent. We have ensured that projects can be accelerated. We have cut down on red tape. We have done many things to ensure that the quality of life of Canadians is improved through infrastructure programs.
RInC, the recreational infrastructure Canada program, members will recall, the communities component, invested $500 million in recreational facilities across Canada over two years. This was a temporary economic stimulus that helped create jobs while renewing, upgrading and expanding recreational infrastructure in Canadian communities. It was hugely well received, as were the other portions of the building Canada fund and the other infrastructure programs this government brought forward. We brought them forward at a time when Canada needed them. What we have done has been well received. People appreciate it. Lives are better. The NDP voted against it all.
Ms. Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Chambly—Borduas.
I am pleased to rise in the House to support the motion seeking a long-term, predictable and accountable federal infrastructure plan in partnership with the provincial and municipal governments as well as first nations communities.
I moved a similar motion in the fall of 2011. I urged the government to act in a strategic and thoughtful manner to address the pressing needs of Canadian municipalities and communities.
To begin, I would like to focus on my riding, LaSalle—Émard, which is part of greater Montreal. Montreal was booming in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Highways, government buildings and water filtration and treatment plants were being built. Unfortunately, over the years, this infrastructure has been neglected either because no money has been invested in sporadic maintenance or because of increased use. Our cities are based on outdated models, which unfortunately means that people need cars, even today. We still build our cities that way. People living in the suburbs are further and further away from their workplace and from services that should be close by.
That is why it is absolutely crucial that we have a long-term federal infrastructure plan. This plan must be innovative and make our cities and towns places where active transportation is possible and safe. It must also ensure efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly public transit to maximize the number of trips and minimize the number of vehicles. Incidentally, I would like to know what the government's plan is for public transit infrastructure. How will this be coordinated with transit in the greater Montreal area? I think this illustrates why we need a national public transit strategy, as proposed by the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.
In its most recent report on the top 10 barriers to competitiveness, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce laments inadequate public infrastructure planning and criticizes the fact that government commitments to infrastructure have been intermittent and the criteria changeable. In a speech given on February 12, 2013, the hon. Perrin Beatty, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, had this to say:
|| One essential element for Canada’s long-term economic growth and prosperity is high-quality, modern public infrastructure....How Canada renews and invests in its aging infrastructure will help determine our quality of life. But it will also directly serve the competitiveness of our businesses.
|| Leadership entails pursuing a vision through innovative and forward thinking in order to achieve progress and ultimately success. Making some tough but necessary choices along the way is not easy but it is necessary. Governing requires the same attributes and we cannot focus exclusively on short term temporary solutions for the sake of pointing to progress and claiming victory at glitzy public announcements.
For instance, we saw this last week, when we were working in our constituencies. That is why we need a predictable, accountable and long-term infrastructure strategy.
Traffic congestion in the greater Montreal area is very costly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and time. According to a report published in La Presse last fall, Montreal ranks fourth out of the 26 major cities in North America with the worst traffic congestion . Also according to that report, trips in the Montreal area now take 40 minutes longer by car than they should during peak periods.
According to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, the overall annual cost of congestion in the metropolitan area alone was over $1.4 billion, or 1% of GDP, in 2008. The report added that a 3% increase in the public transit mode share would cut these costs by $63.8 million per year.
The report continues:
|| The development of efficient means of transportation generates economic benefits that contribute significantly to productivity and wealth creation.
We are talking about public transit.
Again quoting the report:
|| Public transit benefits include more purchasing power for households, easy mobility, reduced congestion costs and increased property values in the area.
During visits to businesses and institutions in my riding, LaSalle—Émard, I have met business leaders who have lost employees who were having difficulties getting to work because of the congested roads. Some employees have to spend up to three hours a day on public transit to get to work in my riding. The many construction projects that are under way and will resume in the spring will not help matters in the short term. For example, the Mercier Bridge, which spans the river from LaSalle to the south shore, was closed in the southbound direction all weekend and will be closed again this coming weekend.
This is an urgent situation. If ever there was a time for all three levels of government to show that they can work actively together for the well-being of Canada's communities, it is now. We need a strategic, long-term plan to truly ensure that the infrastructure that we are building or rejuvenating today meets 21st century requirements with regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and will be there for future generations.
Just as the economic boom of the golden years from 1945 to 1975 was made possible by the infrastructure built at that time, with a great deal of support from the federal public works department, Canada was built in this way. Hence, we need to leave a legacy of infrastructure that will enable sustainable development in the economy that future generations will build. This is a golden opportunity for Canada to show its know-how and its ability to face challenges through innovation.
The motion calls for a predictable infrastructure plan to enable well-defined, strategic planning to address communities' priorities. We absolutely must ensure that there is predictable, long-term funding.
With the building Canada fund set to expire in 2014, Canadian municipalities need financial help today in order not to miss this opportunity. Canada's job growth and economic productivity depend on federal funding, since 11,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure. Canada cannot afford to ignore this opportunity for growth.
In closing, need I remind hon. members that our current infrastructure contributed to Canada's economic growth?
The federal infrastructure plan proposed today has to be a predictable, accountable and long-term plan. This is an investment in the future, which will help build greener, more prosperous communities where no one is left behind.
Mr. Matthew Dubé (Chambly—Borduas, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak to the motion of my colleague from Trinity—Spadina concerning infrastructure and the forthcoming budget. Every member of the House will have something to say because it is one of the few issues that demonstrates local and regional impacts in the field.
I am going to use this opportunity to discuss the problems being experienced in my riding, which have led me to support this motion. I am, moreover, very pleased with our efforts as a political party to ensure predictable and long-term infrastructure funding that is viable and stable.
First of all, people often say that transport is a provincial jurisdiction or that the NDP has its priorities wrong. In fact, what we are asking for in the House today as duly elected representatives was suggested by people who really know what they are talking about because they are experts in the field. I am talking about our elected municipal officials, including mayors, chambers of commerce and the federations under which they operate. I am a member of two chambers of commerce in my area. I also meet regularly with 12 mayors from my riding.
I would like to share a few of their concerns. First of all, a loss in productivity can have a major impact on a region’s economic viability. One example that comes to mind is from the keynote address given by the Mayor of Chambly, Denis Lavoie, at a luncheon held at the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie du bassin de Chambly. He remarked that an effective public transit system is important because it encourages local businesses and producers to remain in the region because they can run successful operations. If people are unable to get around efficiently and quickly, they will want to move elsewhere. If they do, then companies and businesses will follow.
It is therefore not only in our interest as elected representatives to encourage people to move to our region, and to provide services for them, but also in the interest of the chamber of commerce, because they will increase their membership and build a strong local economy.
Loss of productivity and public transit are very important subjects. We have only to look at suburban municipalities in the greater Montreal area, in particular those in the CMM, which includes most of the municipalities in my riding as well. They are equally important in the GTA, the Greater Toronto Area, and also in suburban municipalities surrounding Vancouver, Winnipeg and all the major cities of Canada. I would rather not comment too much on these regions, and focus instead on my own region.
As it happens, my region is currently experiencing urban sprawl, a topic I raise frequently in the House. People are leaving the downtown core to live in suburbs, start a family and live in a neighbourhood that is perhaps more peaceful, with all due respect to my big-city colleagues. There are other factors to be considered as well, like population growth in the regions.
I am relatively young, but I can remember when some of the more rural municipalities in my riding were much less urban than they are now. They have become suburban municipalities. The change is remarkable. In Beloeil, for example, there is development along Highway 20. Many of our Quebec companies, like Rona, are locating stores there for the local residents.
I mentioned urban sprawl because the people who live there frequently work downtown. In my case, the people work in Montreal. People who commute have great expectations about the infrastructure they would like to have.
However, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities tends unfortunately to always want to shift responsibility back to the provinces and municipalities, thereby increasing pressure on provincial and municipal elected representatives who come to see us for help.
Ultimately, teamwork is required if we are to provide better results for the citizens we represent. To be sure, we need to respect areas of provincial jurisdiction. Public transit is one example. We are not about to tell the provinces what to do or how to do it. However, the federal government has an important responsibility with respect to funding programs. It must also establish certain standards for these areas of jurisdiction.
I would like now to return to the topic of urban sprawl. It is very important in terms of highways and public transit, and sprawl also affects bridges like the Champlain Bridge. We naturally heard a great deal of talk during the election and again today. It is an issue that is very problematic for us, the people of the south shore and Montérégie, including my constituents who live in Chambly, Richelieu, Saint-Mathias-sur-Richelieu, Carignan and Marieville, and who travel along highway 30 or highway 10 to the Champlain Bridge. Keeping this bridge viable, particularly in view of the public transit strategy that will be adopted, is essential for people who need to commute.
It is essential for all the usual reasons, such as the fact that public transit is good for the environment and all that, but urban sprawl is moving people farther away from downtown cores. The people of Marieville, for example, need to travel along highway 10 and then cross the Champlain Bridge to work in Montreal. They have a 35 to 40 minute commute when there is no traffic, but this can of course be much longer if traffic is heavy. And the traffic is increasing steadily because of population growth. Building a new bridge would be a good way to address not only these problems, but also to come up with a plan that would be viable over the long term.
At the moment, the government is providing very few details or information about this matter, except for what the minister said in the House yesterday, "If there are no tolls, there will be no bridge". We are not given any more details other than the people of the south shore will have to pay tolls.
My colleague from Brossard—La Prairie recently made a request for a more detailed report about the financial planning and the projects that will be undertaken by the federal government, in collaboration with the provincial government, of course. We are still waiting for that information, which is very important to the people in our ridings.
Let us come back to another subject concerning our motion. It also talks about predictable, long-term funding. That is very important. It is something we often hear from the mayors of municipalities in my riding. The problem is not limited to infrastructure; it is the same everywhere. Our community organizations tell us the same thing, but that is unfortunately another subject. In any event, the problem of unpredictable, short-term funding makes it very difficult to make long-term commitments, and consequently to put plans in place that make sense in the long term.
I put myself in the shoes of a municipal representative. It is a bit difficult when residents come to see me to ask me to do something about our roads, our highways, our bridges, and so on. As a municipal representative, the very little information I have about funding and where it comes from makes the job rather difficult. That is a reminder of why these collaborative efforts are important.
I am being told that my speaking time is up. That is unfortunate, because I could talk about this longer and offer more examples of what we see in our ridings.
I will conclude by saying that we could talk more about the Internet, for example, and the digital infrastructure that really has to be put in place. That is very important for us, on the outskirts of the city. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to say more about that when I answer questions and comments.
It will certainly be clear from what I have said that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of problems in our ridings to do with these issues. That is why I am very pleased to see the work done by my colleagues from Trinity—Spadina and Trois-Rivières. I am very pleased to support this motion, and hope to see a New Democrat government take office in 2015.
Mr. Joe Daniel (Don Valley East, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to address my hon. colleague's motion about infrastructure. Quite frankly, this motion is too little, too late.
I appreciate the concern of my colleague on the matter. However, if the NDP really cared about the state of the infrastructure in Canada, its members would have voted for the numerous initiatives to help the provinces, territories and municipalities. They should have supported our $33 billion building Canada fund in 2007. They did not. They should have voted for the thousands of economic action plan infrastructure projects across Canada in 2009. They did not. They should have voted for the increase of the gas tax fund transfer payments. They did not. They should have voted, not once but twice, for the legislation making the gas tax fund permanent. Not once but twice, they voted against it.
For seven years, the New Democrats voted against every one of our infrastructure initiatives. Now they are asking to do what we have already done. They are asking to do something they do not believe in. They have repeatedly voted down our entire proposal to support infrastructure spending, while Canadians know that our Conservative government has delivered big for them over the last seven years.
That being said, building on the comments already made by my hon. colleagues, I would like to focus on three key issues: first, the significant value that P3 generates; second, what our government is doing to move the P3 agenda forward; and third, some of the key successes we have achieved so far.
Before I talk about infrastructure, I would inform my colleagues that strengthening Canada's economic and fiscal health has been the top priority of our government for the last seven years.
With an uncertain global economy, we remain focused on ensuring Canada offers the right environment to attract the business investment necessary to create more and better paying jobs, thereby improving the living standards of all Canadians. We have a strong economic record, one that Canadians can look at to trust as we once again face economic headwinds emanating from abroad.
Contrary to what the official opposition members may believe, our economic policies to date, epitomized by Canada's economic action plan, have worked and placed Canada on the right track. They have provided Canada with a competitive advantage today on which we can capitalize to ensure our prosperity for tomorrow.
The facts speak for themselves. For instance, Canada has more than recovered both all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession. Since July 2009, employment has increased by 900,000 jobs and is more than 470,000 jobs above the pre-recession peak, the strongest job growth among G7 countries over the recovery. Real GDP is significantly above pre-recession levels, and it is also the best performance in the G7.
In short, Canada has weathered the global economic storm well, and the world has noticed.
While it is gratifying to highlight Canada's economic strengths, we all know we cannot afford to be complacent. Today's advantage will not carry into tomorrow simply by sheer luck or good intentions. This is especially true in an all-too-volatile global economy. Although coming from beyond our borders, a number of external threats could have severe consequences for the Canadian economy. Rest assured that our government is cognizant of these challenges and will remain focused and disciplined on the things we can control.
For example, we continue to control the growth in government spending by implementing the savings measures identified in economic action plan 2012. We continue to implement the commitments made in economic action plan 2012 to encourage jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.
That brings me to the key point, the importance of P3s for infrastructure projects.
Canadians count on good, reliable and lasting infrastructure. It is important to our quality of life and the strength of our communities. Today, in this uncertain economic environment, we must also view infrastructure through another lens: its contribution to economic growth and improved competitiveness.
During the global economic recession, our government responded with an unprecedented action plan that provided federal funding to help build much needed infrastructure in cities, towns and villages across the country. I stress that this was done in partnership with other levels of government. We may sometimes hold different viewpoints, but there are fundamental priorities on which we can all agree. The importance of infrastructure investment is one of these.
Since 2006, our government has significantly increased its direct support for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. We have done so as a result of two key initiatives: Canada's seven year infrastructure plan, launched in 2007; the building Canada plan and infrastructure measures found in the 2009 economic action plan.
These include: $8.8 billion under the building Canada fund, of which an estimated $5 billion will continue to flow this year and over future years to municipalities, provinces and territories to reflect project timelines; and predictable long-term funding for municipalities under the gas tax fund and the goods and services tax rebate for municipalities. Our government has made a $2 billion annual allocation under the gas tax fund, a permanently legislated measure municipalities can count on year in and year out.
It also includes investments to strengthen the trade related infrastructure through the gateways and border crossings fund and the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative.
In total, based on the most recent reports received, more than 30,000 projects have been completed with support from Canada's economic action plan since January 2009, creating tens of thousands of jobs in communities across Canada at a time when they were most needed.
Our government's infrastructure plan is comprehensive and brings our partners on board, including the private sector, for an even greater infrastructure impact.
Of all the components of our plan, the focus on P3s is what I would like to speak to in greater detail in the time allocated to me today.
Governments throughout the world have been increasingly turning toward P3s to deliver much-needed public infrastructure investments. Public investments in infrastructure have grown significantly, but we need creativity and vision when it comes to financing, delivering and maintaining infrastructure.
P3s can and should be used when they make sense, which is when they provide better value for taxpayer money than traditional procurement can. This happens through sharing risk with the private sector, such as design, construction, operating and maintenance.
Through P3s, governments can access private sector expertise, technology and capital to build public infrastructure faster and at a lower cost to the taxpayer. It was an approach we encouraged in the beginning of our mandate when in 2006 the government introduced “Advantage Canada”, a strategic long-term economic plan designed to improve our country's economic prosperity into the future. A key element of it was a greater use of P3s in Canadian infrastructure projects.
In 2008 our government announced the creation of PPP Canada to deliver $1.2 billion P3 funding, one important component of the building Canada plan. PPP Canada became operational in 2009. Four years later, the corporation is making a difference in the Canadian P3 industry.
PPP Canada works with provincial and territorial governments, municipalities and first nations to promote the increased adoption of public-private partnerships in infrastructure procurement.
As someone who is a strong supporter of the benefits of P3, it is heartening to know that I have many examples to choose from. For example, in the last year alone, PPP Canada has been acting as an adviser to Transport Canada on both the new bridge in Montreal, over the St. Lawrence, and the Detroit River international crossing, two of the largest potential P3 projects under construction in Canada.
The new Detroit bridge will attract investments and business opportunities to boost local and national economies and will result in much-needed jobs for Ontario and Michigan communities. The new crossing will increase border capacity to handle future trade and travel growth and will be built with the security of both our countries in mind. With the co-operation of the Michigan government and with the help of PPP Canada, we will get this important project built.
PPP Canada has also successfully launched four annual rounds calling for applications to the P3 Canada fund from provinces, territories, municipalities and first nations. Their outreach and awareness strategy combined with their expert advice has resulted in the announcement of 14 P3 projects across Canada, totalling close to $1.9 billion in eligible construction costs alone.
Through these interactions and its work with federal departments and agencies, PPP Canada is gaining hands-on experience and has developed the knowledge and expertise to provide high-quality advice to its clients at all levels of government. In addition, PPP Canada has created a suite of tools and products aimed at sharing this knowledge with other organizations considering the P3 option.
In budget 2011 our government went further, instituting a requirement that federal departments evaluate the potential for using a P3 to deliver large federal capital projects. As a result, all federal infrastructure projects creating an asset with a lifespan of at least 20 years and having a capital cost of $100 million or more must be assessed to determine whether a P3 may be a suitable procurement option.
Should the assessment conclude that there is P3 potential, the procurement department is required to develop a P3 proposal among possible procurement options. Departments are also encouraged to explore the potential of P3 approaches for other types of projects and procurements of services.
All of these initiatives will mean getting the P3 approach considered more often for more projects across the country.
That brings me to my final point: some of the highlights of the continuing success of the P3s.
Recent projects supported by P3 Canada funding include: the construction of a transit facility and a permanent snow storage decontamination facility in the city of Saskatoon; the Iqaluit international airport improvement project, which will improve existing infrastructure and build a new airport terminal building; a new train maintenance facility for Lachine, Quebec that will provide a long-term solution to public transit development in the greater Montreal area; the construction of the North Saskatchewan River crossing in Alberta to alleviate traffic congestion; and the construction of a new organic biofuels facility in the city of Surrey, B.C.
With projects such as these, it is no secret that Canada has become a global leader in P3s. While still new for some Canadian provinces, territories and municipalities, Canada can and should celebrate this success.
Federal departments and agencies, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Export Development Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation, along with PPP Canada and the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, are sharing their knowledge and experience to help transform the global P3 market in the process.
In conclusion, as we can see, even amidst a volatile global economy we have achieved a great deal in working together in innovative new ways to get infrastructure off the blueprints and into the communities across Canada. P3 plays no small part in making that possible. We know that P3s can save taxpayer money and allow more projects to be built across the country. Quite simply, we need P3s and we cannot afford to overlook their potential as we deal with persistent global uncertainty. I expect P3s will continue to play a significant role in infrastructure investment, helping to connect and strengthen this great country.
The reality is, whether it is building better roads to reduce congestion and keep people and goods moving or public buildings that serve the needs of the community or bridges that link us to each other, infrastructure is key to our success. We believe that the ingenuity and creativity of individual Canadians will create a lasting economic growth and jobs through investment and innovation. In working toward a better Canada, infrastructure will play a key role in connecting Canadians to the world and each other.
Based on the decisive measures our government has already taken to support infrastructure projects in our great country, I feel there is no need to support this motion today, and we will not be lectured by a party that stood in the way of the largest infrastructure investment in Canadian history.
Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on this timely and appropriate motion from the member for Trinity—Spadina. I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
First, I need to take umbrage with the comments from the member opposite just prior to mine, in that he suggested that somehow the NDP was voting against the gas tax. That could not be further from the truth.
Jack Layton was the champion of the gas tax, was the one who thought of the idea in the first place, and was the member of Parliament who brought it to fruition. Without Jack Layton, we would not have a gas tax for the other side to now crow about. Part of what goes on over there is that things get done by members on this side and then get adopted by members on that side as things that they thought of when they did not.
The other issue is in relation to the $2 billion the member pointed out as being the government's ongoing contribution to the infrastructure deficit in this country. It will take 80 years for that money to actually deal with the infrastructure deficit that this country now faces. If anyone thinks that the bridges, roadways, water systems and sewer systems are going to last 80 years, they have another think coming. It is not possible. That is way too little money, and it is not the cities of this country that are going to suffer, but the people who live in those cities.
The other part of the speech from the member opposite talked about how we voted against things. It is very interesting that none of the issues that they put forward as things they have done were ever separated out, were ever something that we could have voted for, because they were always buried with things we could not stand, such as the reductions in environmental protections in Bill C-38 and the removal of the Navigable Waters Protection Act from many of the waters in Canada in Bill C-45. Those are the kinds of things that we are forced to vote against.
If Conservatives throw a few crumbs in with that and then later say we voted against it, it is very erroneous thinking. It is not fair for the government to suggest that the NDP is not in favour of infrastructure when in fact we are pushing infrastructure everywhere we can.
The biggest infrastructure deficit facing this country will be the infrastructure deficit caused by our commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and our commitment to deal finally with the problem of global warming and climate change. That infrastructure deficit is something we all should pay attention to.
The situation now is that the previous government signed on to Kyoto and then did not really do anything about it, while the current government abandoned Kyoto and still has not really done anything about it. There have been some vague promises from the Prime Minister that we will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in this country by 2020 by 17%. Right now, by my best guess, we are actually going to increase our level of greenhouse gases by 2020 if we do not start doing things about it.
The other thing he promised was that we would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2050; 65% is a lot. It means that two-thirds of the activity in this country that is currently using fossil fuels must stop using fossil fuels.
There are basically five things that go on in this country. We heat and cool our buildings. We have industry, which requires energy. We have agriculture, which requires energy. We have goods transportation and we have personal transportation. Each of those five is roughly 20% of the use of energy in this country. Are we going to stop doing three of those five things? Are we going to stop moving people? Are we going to stop moving goods? Are we going to stop having industry? Are we going to stop having agriculture? Are we going to stop heating and cooling our houses? No, we are not going to stop doing all those things.
However, if we are to attain the goal of reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases, we have to stop using fossil fuels for all of those things. How do we do that? We do it with electricity. That is currently the only way. The only way we can actually have enough electricity to do those kinds of things is to start building the generating capacity of clean electric power now, through infrastructure programs that will allow it to be delivered across this country.
In my riding right now there is a giant infrastructure program going on to build new rail lines. Rail is good. It moves people more efficiently than cars and goods more efficiently than trucks. The trouble is that the Conservative government has not signed on to making that rail system electric. It would be a first huge step for the government to show its commitment to reducing greenhouse gases by electrifying our transportation networks across this country—by first building the transportation systems, but by building them electric.
The member for Davenport has suggested that we have $6 billion worth of gridlock in the city of Toronto every year. That means we are losing $6 billion, and these guys are throwing $2 billion at the problem.
We need to build public transit infrastructure and we need to build it quickly if we are to meet that 2050 target of a 65% reduction in greenhouse gases that the Prime Minister has set for himself. We need to have electric transportation across the country to deliver our goods and people safely, quickly and without using fossil fuels. It is the only way we are ever going to achieve that target.
We are not going to achieve that target by regulation. If we think about it, how would we regulate an industry like agriculture into not using fossil fuels? That is not going to happen. How are we going to regulate the movement of goods and people without providing a system whereby the movement of goods and people can done without using greenhouse gases? This is not something that a P3 is going to solve. It would take actual leadership from the government across Canada to take the bull by the horns to actually deliver on the promised reduction in greenhouse gases.
The way to do that is through the generation of clean electricity from the use of turbines, photocells and other forms of clean electric generation, such as tidal generation in the north and the east. That electricity could be provided across Canada for heating and cooling homes and for transporting people and goods in such a way that we could stop using fossil fuels for those activities.
We cannot meet that 2050 target any other way. If we do not start now with a real commitment to infrastructure in this country, a real commitment to transportation infrastructure, a real commitment to public transit and a real commitment to the kind of money that is necessary to do this, we are never going to meet the 2050 targets.
The Conservatives used to have a green infrastructure fund. However, what did they do in the last budget, which we voted against? They slashed the green infrastructure fund. The Conservative government used to have a home renovation credit, a renovation payment plan, so that individuals could make their homes use less greenhouse gas energy. What did the Conservatives do? They gutted it. They actually cut it off before all the money that was budgeted was spent. There was money in that budget to try to reduce greenhouse gases through infrastructure spending, but it was not spent. That was infrastructure money from the minister, but that money was never spent.
The government talks a big talk but does not actually deliver, and that is what is needed. It is what this motion is all about. It is to say to the government that we need to have a strategy to do this. It is not just because the cities need it, not just because the country needs it, not just because we say so, but because it is an absolute priority in order to create the kind of Canada that will allow our children and grandchildren to be able to breathe and to live in the kind of comfort that we now live in.
However, that is not going to happen without a significant new input in financial resources from the government. The $2 billion a year just to cover repairs of existing infrastructure is never going to do the kind of work that is necessary to build the infrastructure that this country needs to move forward into this century.
Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, let me start with some infrastructure realities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, we do not have superhighways. Most of the Trans-Canada Highway across my province is two lanes: one lane going east and one lane going west. We do not even have trains in Newfoundland. They were taken out, beginning in 1988. Labrador has trains to ship iron ore, but there are no passenger trains. Much of Labrador, in the year of our Lord 2013, does not even have paved roads. How is that for an infrastructure problem?
I was in Labrador West before Christmas. The parking lot of the local high school was filled with snowmobiles. The rural way is a different way of life, a more rugged way of life. Rural infrastructure needs are different from urban infrastructure needs. However, both are just as important.
Here is a stark reality of Newfoundland and Labrador life. There are towns in my province with chlorine water treatment systems that do not operate. They are not turned on because the towns cannot afford to run them.
Here is another stark reality of Newfoundland and Labrador life. There are towns that have had boil water advisories for 10, 15 and 20 years—not months, but years—because the towns cannot afford to fix the problems. On any given day in Newfoundland and Labrador, there could be 100 to 150 towns with boil water advisories because the towns do not have the money to fix the water problems.
The opposition motion before this House today, moved by the tireless member of Parliament for Trinity—Spadina, calls upon the Conservative government to commit in the upcoming federal budget to a long-term, predictable federal infrastructure plan to fix crumbling infrastructure, shorten commute times and improve Canada's lagging productivity. We have traffic gridlock. We have failing water systems. We have pothole-filled roads. We have an infrastructure deficit, calculated as the total amount of investments needed to maintain and replace decaying municipal infrastructure at $171 billion. These facts are not debatable. They are stark realities of Canadian life.
We need a long-term, predictable infrastructure plan. That is what municipalities are calling for. We do not need an ad hoc budget-to-budget funding model favoured by the current Prime Minister, better suited to photo ops rather than building strong communities. We need strong communities. We are trying to build those strong communities and towns with eight-cent tax dollars. By 8 cents, I mean that municipalities receive only 8% of Canada's tax revenue.
The work of municipalities is critical to our day-to-day life. To put this into perspective, I would like to quote Randy Simms, who is the mayor of Mount Pearl, in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. He stated:
|| You can invest in what you want—you can put millions in the fishery, millions into the university, put millions into education, millions into business. You can do whatever you want, but remember this. If you don't invest in communities, in healthy communities, you can't have a healthy province. And if you don't have a healthy province, you can't build a healthy nation. The guys that get the eight cents, they're like the hand that rocks the cradle.
Now that brings the point home. We can argue in this House about new jets. We can argue in this House about pipelines. We can argue about international trade deals. Those are important arguments to have. However, they do not mean a thing if our roads are not fit to drive on, our water is not fit to drink and our bridges are not safe.
This country has to get back to the basics: healthy communities, healthy provinces and a healthy nation. It is simple math, policy 101.
I had a conversation last evening with the president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, a man by the name of Churence Rogers. I asked Churence what message he wanted me to bring to the floor of the House of Commons. His message is exactly what is in this motion today. He spoke about long-term predictable funding—there are those words again—with more flexibility on how municipalities, especially small municipalities, spend the funding. He spoke about less restrictions and more dedicated infrastructure funding, as opposed to application-based infrastructure funding, which is where the politics seep into the system and where the rot begins.
When it comes to transportation, one of the biggest problems in Newfoundland today is the Gulf of St. Lawrence ferry link. I recently took the ferry from Port aux Basques, on the west coast of Newfoundland, to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and it cost me for a round trip, including an overnight berth, a total of $561.75 to travel about 360 kilometres. If I travelled that far by road, it would cost about a tank of gas, less than $100. That is our highway, and the cost for passengers and shipping commercial freight on the gulf ferry run is destined to increase on April 1 by another 4%. When we talk infrastructure and transportation, we are talking about business, and the cost of business in Newfoundland and Labrador is continually rising. The ferry link is our highway, and this poor infrastructure is affecting the cost of food, the cost of clothes, the cost of everything.
What do we want from this motion, this infrastructure plan? What should Canadians, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, take away from this? We want a plan that is developed through continuous talks with provinces, territories, municipalities and aboriginal communities. We want a long-term plan that spans 20 years. We want clear funding, clear program targets and transparency. We want the politics taken out of it, if the Conservatives know how to do that.
What have the Conservatives said about a long-term, predictable infrastructure plan? The Conservatives made a promise in 2011 for just such a plan, but it was nowhere to be seen in the 2012 budget. We could only assume they did not change the existing budget-to-budget approach because they like the partisan politics, the photo ops, and putting Conservative Party logos on government cheques and parading them before the media.
I will end with a quote from the MP for Trinity—Spadina. She said:
|| Canadians are tired of boil water advisories and dodging potholes, and they're tired of being stuck in traffic jams and packed buses. I proposed a practical plan for long-term infrastructure and I'm hopeful that the Conservatives will work with me.
I am hopeful, too. Healthy communities make for healthy provinces, which make for a healthy nation. That is Canadian policy 101.