As a federal pre-election spending blitz raises some political eyebrows in Canada, numbers tallied by Global News reveal that Halifax is a hot spot for federal funding commitments.
The riding currently ranks eighth out of 338 in Canada for its overall number of federal funding commitments – 166 in total as of Sept. 3.
Those projects add up to more than $1 billion over four years under Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, including a $500-million contract given to the Irving Shipyard for the navy’s frigate maintenance program.
READ MORE: Federal government awards Irving Shipbuilding Inc. $500M contract to maintain navy fleet
It’s a little more than 2.5 times the number of commitments made by the last Tory government led by Stephen Harper, which made 66 spending commitments between 2011 and 2015, putting Halifax in ninth place, with just under $300 million in total.
“We are coming out of a long period of neglect by the federal government, so it was a lot of catching up to do, in the East in particular,” explained Halifax MP Andy Fillmore in a Tuesday interview.
“And Halifax being kind of the hub, as I mentioned, the economic and research and cultural hub of the East, I think those were important investments to make.”
In October 2015, Trudeau’s Liberals took every seat in Atlantic Canada. As they try to hold onto them this time around, some suggest the concentration of announcements in Halifax may be more than catch-up and good advocacy in Ottawa, as Fillmore has indicated.
READ MORE: Conservatives claim Liberals broke rules with summer spending tour handing out billions
Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher said the Trudeau government may be taking a leaf out of former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien’s book.
“In 1993, (Chrétien) almost swept the Atlantic provinces, and then in ’97 lost great support there, basically, most people concluded because he kind of ignored the Maritimes and didn’t keep promises during that four-year period,” Conacher told Global News.
“So I think that lesson would be there for the Liberals again and would also be part of the reason why they’re dedicating so much spending to that area.”
It’s not unusual for a federal government to double-down on spending before an election is called, but with 2,970 new spending commitments made last week alone, the federal Conservatives have launched an official complaint to Canada’s Elections Commission that the Liberals were inappropriately campaigning on the public purse.
WATCH: Atlantic Liberals deny strategic timing of funding announcements (Aug. 29, 2019)
Dalhousie University sociology professor Howard Ramos said the spending in Halifax makes sense given its regional importance, infrastructure and healthcare needs, but added that it’s an important riding for the Liberals to hold onto.
“It is also a riding that previously was held by the NDP for a number of years and was formerly the riding of their leader,” he explained. “So it’s a riding that certainly the Liberals are concerned about coming into the next federal election, which is likely going to be a tight election.”
Fillmore denies that spending in his riding has been politically-motivated.
To date, the retiring Mark Eyking ranks 62nd nationally, with 77 commitments and $242 million in Sydney-Victoria over four years.
Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher’s riding ranks 119th in Canada for funding commitments, with 51 projects representing a combined $55.3 million.
READ MORE: How we use Twitter to keep track of thousands of federal government spending announcements
Many of the spending announcements are for projects whose funding will be spent across two or more provinces in Atlantic Canada, or benefiting two or more provinces.
Last month alone, Nova Scotia received nearly $700 million in federal spending commitments over a combined 117 announcements.
On Wednesday, Premier Stephen McNeil is expected to join federal Rural Economic Development Minister and South Shore-St. Margaret’s MP Bernadette Jordan for a funding announcement for Highway 103 in Bridgewater.
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