Canadian Consulting Engineer

2003 Federal Budget: infrastructure commitments inadequate

Not unexpectedly, Finance Minister John Manley's 2003 Federal budget had something for pretty well everyone, including the advocates for the renewal of Canada's aging infrastructure."Regrettably, howe...

March 1, 2003  Canadian Consulting Engineer

Not unexpectedly, Finance Minister John Manley’s 2003 Federal budget had something for pretty well everyone, including the advocates for the renewal of Canada’s aging infrastructure.

“Regrettably, however, the $3 billion over 10 years allocated for the development of Canada’s infrastructure is woefully inadequate,” said the President of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada, Mr. Claude Paul Boivin. The commitment is certainly not as much as what is needed to tackle Canada’s more than $44 billion infrastructure deficit, explained Mr. Boivin. “The very least we had hoped for was $3 billion over the first five years of the 10-year infrastructure program promised in the last Speech from the Throne.”

What is even more disappointing is that the $3 billion will be introduced very slowly with only $100 million in 2003-4 and $150 million in 2004-5. In other words, it is future governments that will inherit the bulk of this commitment. Political budgets being what they are, there is no guarantee that the money will still be available in 10 years, or even in five years. ACEC had strongly supported the creation of a Strategic Infrastructure Foundation which was promised by former Finance Minister Paul Martin in last year’s budget, but subsequently withdrawn, apparently at the requested of the Prime Minister. Without an Infrastructure Foundation to receive and administer these funds there is no guarantee that the money will in fact be expended, and expended wisely without political interfering.

Highways: no news is bad news

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No dedicated increased funding was announced for highways. This will mean that continued pressure will need to be placed on the federal government for future long-term commitments to deal with Canada’s sub-standard National Highway System, whose deficit is estimated at $17.2 billion.

Sustainable development: opportunities in climate change

Budget 2003 includes $2 billion over five years in measures to help implement the Climate Change Plan for Canada. ACEC will work with other construction and design industry stakeholders to ensure that these fund are allocated to vital projects.

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