On October 1, Canada’s federal government announced 10 billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure spending over the next three years. The money will go towards increasing high-speed internet connectivity, improving Canadian agriculture, and bolstering the low carbon economy in the country.
The plan is intended to spur economic growth by creating an estimated 60,000 jobs to cushion the effects of COVID-19.
“We will continue to do what it takes to support Canadians through this crisis, safely get our economy back up and running, and get people back to work,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a recent press release.
Key Highlights of the Plan
The Chair of the Canada Infrastructure Bank Michael Sabia said the investments are made to attract private and institutional dollars to further drive the country’s economy.
The five major initiatives of the plan include:
• Supporting renewable energy generation and storage to get cleaner energy flowing between provinces and territories.
• Connecting about 750,000 homes in underserved communities with high-speed internet service.
• Investing in the energy efficiency of buildings through large-scale building retrofits.
• Strengthening agriculture production through irrigation projects.
• Helping cities get to zero-emissions.
“Canada’s infrastructure plan invests in thousands of projects, creates jobs across the country, and builds stronger communities,” said Catherine McKenna, minister of infrastructure and communities.
Concerns Regarding the Plan
Canada’s construction community is welcoming the funds overall, but some stakeholders are concerned that there aren’t sufficient funds for more traditional construction projects.
According to an October 2 press release from the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), the feds’ plan is a “promising step.” However, CAA said it does “not mention support for certain essential parts of our infrastructure, like roads and bridges, which are in need of attention.”
Indeed, the 2019 edition of the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card (CIRC) confirmed that. It found the state of critical infrastructure, which “provides safe drinking water, handles our waste, creates spaces for sport and recreation, and helps protect our homes against flooding and other natural disasters,” was at risk, and so it would require significant work in the coming years.
Specifically, it found that nearly 40 percent of roads and bridges are in fair, poor, or very poor condition, and more than 80 percent of them are more than two decades old. Similarly, water infrastructure like water mains and sewers will also need upkeep, as nearly a third of them are in fair, poor, or very poor condition.
Bill Karsten, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which helped author the report, said it illustrates the need to renew the infrastructure “that’s already in our communities—even as we envision new projects to build.”
The Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) weighed in on the new infrastructure spending with a similar sentiment, asking for “more focused investment” on improving existing assets.
“We welcome this Growth Plan as it is a necessary step to the economic recovery of Canada,” said RCCAO executive director Andy Manahan in a statement. “We are hopeful that today’s announcement will be accompanied by other bold infrastructure investment measures.”
In terms of what will help pull the economy out of the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCA also pointed out that the government’s infrastructure plan excluded regions hit hardest by the downturn in oil and gas.
Building Towards a Brighter Future
Despite the downfalls of the plan, the CCA is optimistic about what can come out of the investment dollars. “We are committed to working with the federal government and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to make these investments a success,” the statement read.
The CCA also said that for the investments to be effective, the funds must be ready to roll out expeditiously, with “urgency in tendering the projects and a swift flow of funds.”