WATCH: Infrastructure Minister James Moore says infrastructure is a key to a successful Canadian economy, but doesn’t commit to any increased funding in the upcoming budget.
OTTAWA – With the belated 2015-16 budget around the corner, Canada’s industry minister won’t commit to boosting infrastructure investments beyond what’s already been announced, despite the clear message from the country’s mayors.
“You’ll have to wait and see, but there will be an ongoing serious commitment from this government,” Industry Minister James Moore said of the April 21 budget, in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark.
With a date finally set for the tabling of the federal budget, big-city mayors are shining the spotlight on the country’s multi-billion infrastructure deficit, or what they deem one of the biggest issues facing the country.
Moore, however, suggested the Building Canada Fund from last year’s budget is sufficient to meet their demands.
“That’s a commitment that we passed in last year’s budget and it’s a commitment that we’re delivering on through this year because of our sound fiscal management,” Moore said.
The 10-year, $14-billion fund, however, quickly fell under scrutiny last year, with mayors saying it’s not enough to address cities’ failing waterways, roads and public transit systems.
Some criticism hinged on the funding being back-loaded, not providing much to the cities until 2016-17, after the federal election.
Other criticism focused on the fact the fund provides the same amount of money to P.E.I. as it does to Toronto on a per capita basis.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the system doesn’t provide predictable, long-term revenue allowing cities to plan infrastructure funding.
Moore, meanwhile, said there are several streams of revenue available to cities.
“We’re working with the mayors,” he said. “We are delivering record funds.”
As recently as February, though, Canada’s big city mayors were meeting in hopes of leveraging the fall election into billions more in commitments from Ottawa.
Eighteen mayors at the time made no bones about their awareness that voters are set to go the polls sometime before November as they discussed what they estimated to be a $120-billion infrastructure shortfall.
The mayors had yet to hammer out the exact nature of their “collective ask” from Ottawa, but said it would have to be enough for transit and transportation to ease “crippling” traffic congestion.
Nenshi made the eye-popping scale of the problem clear, estimating Calgary alone is short about $17 billion over the coming decade.
The mayors also said they weren’t looking for new housing money in the coming federal budget – just a commitment to protect current allocations – and said they wanted previously promised infrastructure money to flow more quickly.
With files from The Canadian Press