The federal government has not developed a strategic plan for the billions of dollars it intends to spend on infrastructure investments, which will impede parliamentarians’ ability to provide effective oversight.
In its Fall Economic Statement 2016, the government announced plans to allocate $186 billion for infrastructure investments over the next 10 years.
The Senate Committee on National Finance has been studying the design and delivery of the government’s infrastructure commitment and on Tuesday senators released a report arguing for a more coordinated and transparent approach.
The government, for instance, now has infrastructure support programs delivered by 31 different government organizations, all with different priorities. The committee believes this is inefficient and makes it difficult for Parliament to follow the money.
The report makes six recommendations including:
- That the government develop a long-term national infrastructure strategy with clear priorities, concrete targets and specific performance measures.
- That Infrastructure Canada be designated the sole federal infrastructure funding department and that it be the sole point of contact through which applicants can access federal funding.
- That the government include trade infrastructure in its list of priorities; trade infrastructure is critically important to Canada’s export-based economy but it is not mentioned as a priority in the federal budget.
The government has said its goals are to create well-paying jobs and to deliver sustained economic growth. These recommendations will help the government achieve its aims most effectively.
- Of the $186.7 billion in infrastructure investments announced in the government’s Fall Economic Statement 2016, $82.8 billion is slated to go towards new projects.
- Committee witnesses included the Parliamentary Budget Office, Infrastructure Canada, and mayors and municipal representatives.
- Municipalities unanimously praised the Gas Tax Fund for providing a predictable, stable source of revenue; the committee believes this should be used as the model for the recommendation that Infrastructure Canada be the sole point of contact for infrastructure funding applicants.
“It is clearly short sighted for the government to commit to spending nearly $200 billion without a clear plan and rigorous oversight measures. Our committee will continue to press for greater accountability measures from the federal government; this report offers sound advice, well-grounded in evidence that the government should consider.”
– Senator Larry Smith, Chair of the committee.
“The government’s goals of jobs and economic growth are worthy and commendable. We want to track progress, and if we as parliamentarians are expected to do our work, we believe that they can do even better by creating a clear plan, with concrete targets and specific performance measures, that will help them to meet their objectives.”
– Senator Anne C. Cools, Deputy Chair of the committee.
- Click to read the report: Smarter Planning, Smarter Spending: Achieving Infrastructure Success.
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #NFFN.
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