Canadian Consulting Engineer

Budget 2001 – ACEC lobbying on infrastructure pays off

ACEC has long campaigned for greater public investment in Canada's public infrastructure, and the 2001 federal budget is an indication that those efforts are beginning to pay off. Finance Minister Pau...

January 1, 2002  Canadian Consulting Engineer

ACEC has long campaigned for greater public investment in Canada’s public infrastructure, and the 2001 federal budget is an indication that those efforts are beginning to pay off. Finance Minister Paul Martin announced the commitment of $2.0 billion in new funding for infrastructure, which will be delivered through a soon-to-be created foundation. The Minister also announced a series of new investments to support Canadian security, border and military measures.

“Given the current security and economic situation in North America, and given that this is a hard-times budget, the government can be given passing marks for its new infrastructure initiative,” says ACEC President, Claude Paul Boivin. “The devil is in the details, however,” he continues, “and ACEC will need to monitor closely the government’s progress in establishing and bringing the new Strategic Infrastructure Foundation into operation. ACEC will certainly make a submission to the Parliamentary committee when the Bill to create the foundation is introduced early in 2002.”

“The other ACEC concern,” Mr. Boivin explains, “is the new funds for international aid. ACEC will want to make representations to the federal government to ensure that a significant portion of the investments will be used to support infrastructure development.”

Specific issues of interest to consulting engineers

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Security. The Minister announced a number of initiatives related directly to improve Canadian security and military preparedness. Only a couple may have any direct relevance to consulting engineers, including:

critical infrastructure — such as water and energy utilities and transportation and communications systems. There were no details available at the time of writing with respect to how much will be specifically allocated to this initiative, nor about when the funds would begin to flow, or who would be managing this initiative;

$646 million for new technology for Canada Customs and Revenue Canada to facilitate the passage of goods and people at border crossings and better equipment for detection.

Infrastructure. The Minister announced:

the creation of a new Strategic Infrastructure Foundation with a financial offering of $2 billion (independent of the Canada Infrastructure Program) to be managed by an arm’s length agency run by an independent Board of Directors responsible for assessing projects and making spending decisions. Financing for this initiative is dependent on budget surpluses anticipated for the current and future fiscal years. The initiative will require Parliamentary approval (expected in February 2002). The foundation is intended to target major infrastructure projects such as urban transit projects, major sewage projects and inter-urban highways;

a new $600 million infrastructure contribution over five years to improve border facilitation in cooperation with provincial, municipal and private sector players on both sides of the shared border with the United States. These measures are intended to include: border highways, processing centres for commercial vehicles to speed up clearance time and “soft” infrastructure such as intelligent transportation systems;

a further $236 million under the Budget 2000 federal commitment of $200 million per year for five years to improve its own infrastructure. The new monies are to be used for maintenance of veterans’ hospitals, government laboratories and small craft harbours, including $20 million a year for infrastructure repairs to active fishing harbours.

Taxation — The Minister announced a deferment of corporate tax installments for January, February and March of 2002 for six months without interest or penalties for small business.

Aboriginal Peoples — The Minister announced a new package for aboriginal peoples which focused largely on health-related measures such as new monies for alcohol and fetal research. On the surface there were no monies specifically targeted to economic development initiatives.

International Aid — The Minister announced $1 billion in new funding for Canadian international aid efforts. These monies are broken down as follows:

$500 million to a new Africa Fund with an initial allocation to come from this year’s surplus at year’s end. The Fund is designed to work in partnership with African countries, other donor countries and international finance institutions. It is intended to focus on poverty reduction and primary education in Africa but is not conditional on other level funding. It will need Parliamentary approval and is to flow in the new fiscal year;

$100 million in additional financial support of the Afghan crisis to be financed out of this existing fiscal year;

$400 to UN aid agencies and to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility of the IMF to be financed out of current fiscal year surpluses.

Housing — The Minister announced a new commitment of $680 million of capital grants over five years to stimulate the growth of rental housing in Canada. This commitment is based on a 50-50% cost-sharing basis with provinces and territories and is likely to be managed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Environment — The Minister committed to doubling the Green Municipal Enabling Fund and the Green Municipal Investment Fund first announced in his last Budget.

Research — The Minister announced a 7% increase in federal funding to NSERC and a $200 million increased contribution to assist with the indirect costs associated with university research initiatives.

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