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New Building Canada Fund helps fund critical infrastructure

Our water, transportation, building, and energy infrastructure are critical to maintain our quality of life, our economic prosperity, and our global competitiveness. We are all aware of the infrastructure deficit as well as our aging infrastructure, and the limited infrastructure funding at all levels of government.

The consulting engineering industry, through the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of Canada (ACEC) has strongly advocated the merits of a long-term, predictable and sustainable infrastructure program. Such a program will provide the opportunity to properly plan and resource infrastructure projects consistently over the long term, thereby providing better value to taxpayers and reducing the overall life-cycle costs through better decision-making.

The federal government continues to invest in infrastructure in Canada having more than doubled the funding since 2006. Through the New Building Canada Plan the government has allocated $70 billion towards infrastructure renewal over the next 10 years. The $14 billion New Building Canada Fund recently announced will be a key component of the New Building Canada Plan. The New Building Canada Fund provides:

• $10.4 billion over 10 years under the incremental GST rebate for municipalities

• $2 billion per year (indexed at 2% per year) from the Gas Tax Fund. This fund has now been doubled and is legislated as permanent funding

• $1.25 billion over 5 years in the Public Private Partnerships (P3) fund. The $14 billion New Building Canada Fund is focussed as follows:

• $10 billion, a Provincial - Territorial Infrastructure component for projects of national, local or regional significance. $1 billion is available for municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents

• $4 billion, a National Infrastructure component to support projects of national significance.

Currently, there are concerns regarding the rules of the program and how to apply for funding. Meetings continue to try and remove these uncertainties so that the program funding can be rolled out as quickly as possible.

Further Reading: Infrastructure

In my opinion, for an Infrastructure program to be effective and efficient it needs to include some basic fundamentals. They are:

• The funding criteria need to be consistent and predictable

• The rules need to be clear, concise and easy to implement

• The funding must not be impeded by bureaucratic processes to ensure timely and cost-effective implementation

• The program needs to focus on critical infrastructure to ensure the communities’ “needs” are a priority over the “wants”

• The program needs to ensure robust asset management programs are in place so that the funding goes to the areas of most need

• The funding must be allowed to be banked or lumped to assist various governments to plan and fund critical infrastructure when it is needed

• The funding should consider equitable distribution across Canada to all levels of government that reflects the needs, age and priority of infrastructure

• The funding must also require fiscal responsibility at all levels of government to ensure the funding priorities are met

• The funding program should provide the opportunity for consultation to streamline the plan to improve the effectiveness and focus on need over time.

Infrastructure is critical to our way of life, as well as public health and safety. Ongoing commitment to funding from all levels of government must be a priority. We applaud the efforts that the federal and other levels of government have undertaken to date. We know that this funding will assist in providing long-term jobs, improve productivity, and ensure Canada’s long-term prosperity.

About the author:

Herb Kuehne, MBA, P.Eng. is Senior Vice President, Civil Infrastructure and General Manager of Associated Engineering’s Ontario operation. Herb is also Past President of ACEC Canada. You can contact Herb at kuehneh@ae.ca.