Budget watchdog says Liberals can’t account for $2.5B in infrastructure funds

Finance Minister Bill Morneau makes an announcement in Toronto, Monday, October 3, 2016.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau makes an announcement in Toronto, Monday, October 3, 2016. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA – The parliamentary budget watchdog says it can’t find billions in new infrastructure spending that is supposed to be in key federal spending projections released earlier this month.

The main spending estimates for the next 12 months were supposed to include $8 billion in new infrastructure spending, but a report Thursday morning from parliamentary budget officer Jean-Denis Frechette says the documents only show $5.5 billion in infrastructure allocations.

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The report lists multiple reasons for the missing $2.5 billion, including that the Liberals may defer some intended spending to future years.

Another reason cited in the report is that the spending estimates are presented in such a complicated way that Frechette’s office couldn’t find the money.

“Parliamentarians may wish to ask federal officials for a summary of federal infrastructure spending expected to take place in 2017-18, and for officials’ current expectations of the economic impact due to infrastructure spending, compared to the numbers presented in Budget 2016,” the report suggests.

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The report is the latest in a series of studies from the PBO that have raised critical questions about the infrastructure program that is supposed to be a pillar of the government’s economic growth strategy.

The Liberals have been criticized for failing to produce a concrete plan for the rollout of $186 billion in money set aside for infrastructure investment over the next decade.

This latest PBO report predicts that the Liberals will only be able to spend half of their planned federal infrastructure money is this fiscal year.

*With files from Global News.

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