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 February 2017      

 

ACEC raises concerns with slow pace of federal infrastructure investments 

 

ACEC is offering its assistance to help accelerate flow of infrastructure and to ensure that the infrastructure investments are efficient and effective. On February 2nd, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) confirmed concerns of ACEC and its members that expected few federal investments in infrastructure have yet to result in projects proceeding.

The federal government’s 2016 budget focused on immediate and long term growth of the economy through investments in infrastructure and innovation, with a goal to strengthen and expand the middle class. The PBO’s report to Parliament analyzed the flow of infrastructure investments for the first half of the year. Canada’s New Infrastructure Plan: 1st Report to Parliament – Following the Money confirms what the consulting engineering sector has experienced since the budget was announced in March 2016 – that infrastructure money is not flowing quickly. The report indicates that the planned infrastructure investments did not materialize and that there is a risk the spending will be pushed into 2017-2018, impacting the economy and delaying predicted growth. Of the $13.6 billion for fiscal years 2016-2018 announced in Budget 2016, departments have identified $4.6 billion worth of projects. While departments have committed to spending all the allocated funds within the time frame provided, these data show that there remains a significant gap. The PBO’s report stated that government needs to distribute approximately $11 billion in infrastructure investments by March 31, 2018 to meet the economic impact estimates from its infrastructure plan within the stated time frame.

John Gamble, ACEC President and CEO, was not surprised by the report’s findings. “Our member firms have been reporting, through their provincial and territorial associations, that money from the infrastructure investment plan is simply not flowing. It is my hope that the PBO’s report will encourage the government to look into the barriers that are hindering the money from making its way into the Canadian economy.”

Mr. Gamble has raised these concerns directly with the Minister’s office which has agreed to consult with ACEC and other stakeholders to ensure the effective and timely roll out of Phase 2 of the Government’s Infrastructure Plan. Also, with Parliament back in session, Mr. Gamble is also meeting with Members of Parliament that sit on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities to emphasize the importance of making investments in a timely manner and offering ACEC’s assistance and advice.

In other infrastructure news, the Liberal Government is expected to shift unused infrastructure funding from programs established under the previous government to the gas tax fund. An estimated $30 million will be spent to top up the fund, which provides cities and municipalities with funds to invest in horizontal infrastructure such as roads, transit and water and sewer systems. Although this is not new money, this move is good news according to Mr. Gamble, “That the money is going into the gas tax fund instead of expiring and going back into general revenues, which would have been the case before, will prove beneficial” he stated “as the infrastructure this fund targets is in constant need of maintenance and provides cities and municipalities with additional revenue to ensure the systems that support our communities remain in good working order”.

ACEC’s advocacy team will continue to monitor progress on the government’s infrastructure investment plan in the coming months. Stay tuned to Source for further updates.