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Liberals don’t have plan for how to spend nearly $190B in infrastructure cash, budget watchdog says

Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday March 6, 2018. .
Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday March 6, 2018. . The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

OTTAWA – Parliament’s budget watchdog is calling on the Trudeau Liberals to deliver a detailed plan for how it plans to dole out billions in infrastructure dollars to avoid further delays in spending.

Parliamentary budget officer Jean-Denis Frechette says the Liberals don’t yet have a plan for how the federal government will spend $186.7 billion in infrastructure money over the next 12 years.

Government officials have vowed to provide more information beyond what was in last month’s budget that updated spending figures on the program, but they delivered what Frechette calls an incomplete account of $91.1 billion in existing spending.

READ MORE: Some (lesser-known) highlights from the 2018 federal budget 

Frechette’s office says in a report released today that the Liberals won’t spend about one-quarter of planned infrastructure spending between 2016 and 2019, with the cash being shifted to future years.

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Infrastructure funding is regularly subject to delays because dollars don’t flow to projects until cities and provinces submit expense receipts, which often creates a lag between when work takes place and when federal money is spent.

Frechette says parliamentarians should seek government plans to avoid further delays, particularly as the Liberals sign funding deals with provinces and territories for $33 billion in upcoming infrastructure spending.

READ MORE: Canada’s 2018 budget contains no timetable to balance books

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi signed an $11.8 billion agreement with Ontario on Wednesday and is scheduled to sign a funding deal with New Brunswick later today as part of a push to finish agreements with all provinces and territories by the end of the month.

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