News & Events

Ontario infrastructure funding requires focus, say Liberals

February 13, 2014

Governments should be spending the equivalent of five per cent of GDP on infrastructure every year, said Ontario’s transportation and infrastructure minister, calling past infrastructure spends “grossly inadequate,”  according to a report by Kelly Lapointe in Daily Commercial News. [caption width="160" align="alignright"] Glen Murray[/caption]“One of the biggest challenges we face in Ontario is the condition and quality of our infrastructure and the government’s commitment to sustain it,” said Glen Murray, speaking at the recent Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) 87th annual conference. He pointed to the “glory days” of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s where the provincial government spent between two and 2.5 per cent of the GDP on infrastructure with the federal and municipal governments making up the other 2.5 per cent. This was one of the first times Murray publicly named a percentage of GDP that would provide an ideal infrastructure investment.

From about 1973 to 2003, infrastructure spending dropped to about between $2 and $3 million annually, an average about 0.4 per cent of GDP, he said. He noted that the government, which has committed to a rolling infrastructure commitment of $35 million over three years, is approaching the ideal 2.5 per cent infrastructure spend.

“We’re trying to find new and innovative ways to solve these problems. When you only spend $2 million a year on infrastructure, you end up with a lot of crappy infrastructure and we had three decades where we so badly under-invested.” He said this is not a political shot, that all three parties were at the helm at some point over those three decades. “What we should be doing is making sure that to all 107 MPPs in the legislature that this isn’t a negotiable expenditure.” This government says infrastructure investment is core to the province’s success and to its plans for the future. Late last year the government introduced Bill 141, the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2013, which would require the province to regularly table a long-term infrastructure plan in the legislature covering a period of at least 10 years. “That puts long term infrastructure planning into the core of what the government does and it enshrines it into legislation,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne, speaking at the ORBA president’s dinner a few hours after Murray made his speech. She noted that Infrastructure Ontario has confirmed the plan to proceed with 11 new infrastructure and real estate projects. The government is taking steps to enhance and adjust the province’s Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model. “Just because it was developed once doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed and improved. The work we’re doing will make it easier for companies of all sizes to get involved in these projects because what I heard a lot was that it was only large companies (that could participate) and we want to make sure that there is a balance there. We do care about your ability to succeed.” In addition to investing in infrastructure, it is important to invest in people too. Part of this will be addressing the skills mismatch and skills shortage. “One of the things that concerns me about the way we have evolved in Ontario is that we haven’t necessarily developed ways of helping kids as they go through school see the full range of opportunities in front of them,” she said. “They need opportunities to understand what the possibilities are.” Investing in a supportive business climate and reducing red tape are also key measures for the government. The Ontario legislature is expected to begin on Feb. 18 with the minority Liberal government to deliver its budget this spring. It is widely expected that there will be a provincial election this year. SOURCE: Daily Commercial News, Feb 13, 2014

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