March 11, 2013
Keep beating the infrastructure drum: CCA president
LA MALBAIE, QUE.
With a highly anticipated federal budget on the horizon, the Canadian construction industry must continue delivering its message for long-term sustainable infrastructure funding, says the Canadian Construction Association's (CCA) president.
“You have to continue to tell the story over and over. Cabinets change, finance ministers change at all levels,” said Michael Atkinson, the CCA’s president, to attendees at the association’s 95th annual conference in La Malbaie, Que.
Atkinson and Karen Leibovici, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), spoke at the conference about the federal long-term infrastructure plan in the context of this year’s federal budget.
Leibovici said that the message from the FCM and partners, such as the CCA, to Parliament Hill has been a consistent.
“It is the elements of the long-term plan that will make it work or not work and those elements are to ensure that the plan is stable, predictable and flexible,” she said.
“And, it needs to recognize the requirement of partnership of all orders of government and the private sector.”
The Municipal Infrastructure Forum in November 2012 stressed the need for sustained long-term infrastructure funding once the current Building Canada Plan expires in 2014.
The forum’s membership includes key Canadian infrastructure stakeholder groups such as the CCA.
Core to the forum’s principles for developing a new federal long-term infrastructure plan is that it makes sense, secures stable investments that support economic growth, includes some flexibility, has a balanced approach to smart partnerships and builds on municipal capacity, explained Atkinson.
“Infrastructure is not expenditure, but an investment,” added Leibovici.
“It is an investment tied to productivity and provides significant payback.”
Atkinson said that the CCA and FCM are not clear if “the complete unveil” of a long-term plan will be in the next budget.
“There is a lot of speculation we may see a Phase One commitment or Phase Two commitment with the promise of something more permanent being in place,” explained the CCA’s president.
“That’s one scenario.”
However, Atkinson expects the federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) will continue, essentially providing the government with a $3.1 billion commitment to infrastructure to start from in its new plan.
He also believes there will be fewer restrictions on the projects that can be funded by the GTF.
The plan will likely be more than seven years in length since the current plan coming to a close was seven years in length. The length of the plan is a question mark and it will likely be reviewable on some basis, he noted.
The federal government will also likely continue to find some way to encourage public-private partnerships and it could include addressing federal infrastructure components.
Atkinson said he is almost certain on this point, since there is about a $13 billion need in this federal infrastructure area.
How much the plan’s total financial commitment will be is a big question.
“There is no question that the federal government’s commitment to meeting its deficit reduction targets is Number One on this government’s agenda,” he said.
“They do want to make this long-term commitment to infrastructure but the deficit targets have to be made. Since their deficit targets are relatively in the short-term, the notion or idea is that you can have a new long-term infrastructure program announced that tends to rise a bit as it is phased in.”
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