Canada is “missing” $145 billion worth of infrastructure due to declining rates of federal investment in public works, according to a national study.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives calculated it would take up to $30 billion worth of new spending every year to meet the nation’s needs for better infrastructure.
“That’s a lot of new roads, bridges and buildings,” said Hugh Mackenzie, economist with the CCPA and author of Canada’s Infrastructure Gap: Where It Came From and Why It Will Cost So Much To Fix It.
Mackenzie calculated that public works spending as a proportion of the economy peaked at more than 3 percent of GDP in the 1950s, and fell into a forty-year decline from which it has yet to recover. The Fifties boom in public works included construction of the Trans-Canada Highway, and federal buildings in every provincial capital in the country.
“The federal government has the money, the provincial governments have the constitutional authority, and local governments have the responsibility for making the actual investments,” Mackenzie said.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has appealed for details of public works subsidies in next month’s federal budget. Cabinet has pledged to renew a multi-billion dollar Building Canada subsidy plan, set to expire in 2014, but has yet to detail terms and conditions.
“The federal government’s new long-term infrastructure plan is Canada’s opportunity to put our essential infrastructure back on solid ground,” said Karen Leibovici, federation president.
Engineering firms have also pressed for prompt release of any new subsidy plan.
“We have to look after our core facilities,” said John Gamble, president of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies.
“Things have to happen now if we’re going to avoid a gap that will hurt our economy,” said Gamble. “It’s time we begin to ramp up for the future.”
No date has been finalized for the next federal budget.