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Ontario slows down its infrastructure spending

The Ontario Budget for 2010 was released March 25, and held some good and some bad news for engineering compan...


The Ontario Budget for 2010 was released March 25, and held some good and some bad news for engineering companies involved in infrastructure.
On one hand Finance Minister Dwight Duncan promised “record investment” to continue “for roads, bridges, transit, energy retrofits and other infrastructure.” The province pointed out that according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada, Ontario’s investments in infrastructure had created 180,000 direct and indirect full-year jobs in 2009, and that this would rise to 225,000 jobs in 2010.
On the other hand, the government said it has now fully allocated its short-term stimulus investment funding, which was provided to counteract the effects of the worldwide economic recession. The funding has gone into projects for municipalities and universities and colleges, as well as to roads and water infrastructure. All of these — over 5,400 projects — must be completed by March 31, 2011.
And in an effort to reduce a projected deficit of $21.3 billion, the government said it is “slowing the pace of long-term infrastructure investments.” It promised to launch a comprehensive review of capital investments by the end of this year, and in the meantime will ask Metrolinx, the Toronto and region transportation authority, to cut $4 billion in spending over the next five years, which means Metrolinx will likely curtail its vast expansion transit plans for the region. The announcement of transit funding cuts by the province drew outrage from the Toronto mayor.
Ontario also said it would delay plans to invest in new government offices, saving $1.4 billion, and would put off construction of the Toronto West Courthouse by a year, saving $130 million.
To sweeten the austerity pill, the budget included a reminder that Toronto’s 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games (the first major international sports games hosted in the province since the 1930s) will lead to the construction of $700 million in new and upgraded sports and recreation facilities.
One area in which Ontario says it will boost spending is in its Northern communities. Some $1.2 billion was listed for planned highways, hospitals, water and wastewater systems. Specifically named for these investments are the Thunder Bay Consolidated Courthouse, new Ontario Provincial Police command centres and forensic units, and the expansion of 100 kilometre on Highways 11/17 between Thunder Bay and Nipigon to four lanes. The Huron Central Railway between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury is also receiving $15 million of $33 million to be spent on improvements.