Published On: Saturday, 20 May 2017

Where Is All That Federal Infrastructure Money?

Where Is All That Federal Infrastructure Money?
Generally speaking, when we see the word infrastructure, don’t we expect an investment in structure? Bridges? Roads? Facilities that only government can and should be commissioned to build – sewer, water, etc.?

- Mark MacDonald is the Publisher of the Business Examiner, and President of Invest Northwest Publishing.

CANADA - Where’s the investment?

During the 2015 federal election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised to invest billions of dollars into “infrastructure”, much to the delight of the electorate.

Nearing the midway mark of 2017, and a year and a half since the Liberals formed government, we are well aware of an increase in spending. A “promised” $10 billion deficit ballooned to $30 billion in their first budget. The announced federal budget deficit this year is $28.5 billion – three times the promised campaign number.

Where has the money gone? And more importantly, where is the promised “infrastructure”?

Generally speaking, when we see the word infrastructure, don’t we expect an investment in structure? Bridges? Roads? Facilities that only government can and should be commissioned to build – sewer, water, etc.? These are the necessary components of any economy that enable the private sector to do what they do best – create wealth and jobs.

If by using the word “infrastructure”, Trudeau meant to say “people”, well, that has merit. Investing in people is good. Except that wasn’t what was insinuated.

We are watching the Liberals send millions of Canadian dollars overseas to various countries for numerous causes. As in when the United States recently bombed the airport in Syria following their government’s use of sarin gas on its own people. And Trudeau promptly announced $840 million in foreign aid to Syria.

In the run-up to the last election, voters expressed frustration concerning the amount of money the federal government was distributing in foreign aid - even though the Conservatives had steadily pared that back. The very strong question was: “Shouldn’t we be looking after our own backyard, first?”

A very good question indeed.

Most certainly, we should be looking after Canadians first, with Canadian dollars. That’s what taxes are supposed to be utilized for. Canada’s social safety net is already one of the most generous in the entire world. But the best way to boost revenues and therefore contribute more in that matter is to have a growing economy.

This country needs that significant investment in infrastructure that Trudeau promised, and one would suspect that’s one reason why voters overlooked the Trudeau family favourite – deficit spending. If Canadians thought they could get bridges and roads and dams and other structures so necessary for a healthy economy built, then they believed they could live with it.

Look at the dividends that result from funding injected into upgrading the John Hart Dam near Campbell River. The Site C Dam, the third dam on the Skeena River in northern BC. The McKenzie Interchange in Victoria, intended to reduce traffic congestion in the region.

All of these significant expenditures result in well paying jobs from highly skilled trades and has a massive trickle-down effect and significant socio-economic benefits. Working people are busier people, who are more productive, active and healthy. Bringing home a sizeable paycheque from a meaningful job is very good for one’s self-esteem as well.

It’s much, much more beneficial to everyone when people are working.
As a country, we help those who cannot help themselves. That’s what generous Canada does. Yet the excesses of a welfare/government dependent system that is taken advantage of by those who can work, but choose not to, makes people dependent on “big brother”, and keeps them idle and non-productive.

When government pays people more to stay home and do nothing, making it only marginally beneficial to go out and get a job to provide for themselves and their families, it’s a clear sign that the social safety net has become excessive and failed to reach its ultimate, intended goal: Helping people.

Giving people something for doing nothing doesn’t help them get up on their feet and become productive, financially contributing members of society. It weakens them – and the country – in the long-term. That’s generally not positive long-term investment in “infrastructure”.

Highway investment is much more than fixing a few potholes – it’s improving traffic flow and adding lanes for cars and trucks where traffic volumes call for it. It’s bad for business when trucks filled with goods and supplies spend hours on the highways, putt-putting along at 15 kilometres per hour, due to traffic congestion. In business, time is money, and that collective slowness increases the cost of doing business. What could be a 15 minute drive becomes an hour.  .  . a two-hour trip now takes six hours at the wrong time of the day.

When governments distribute money in such a way that causes people to become more dependent on government hand-outs, even though it provides short-term relief, it also has long-term negative repercussions. People aren’t encouraged to get out and fend for themselves, working and creating jobs and an independent financial future for their families.

Canada expects the federal government to fulfill its promise of investment in infrastructure. Yesterday. If it’s in projects, it will not only give us what we need to move the country forward, those projects will help everyone move forward, including the people building them with well paying jobs.