MFL speaks out on New National Infrastructure Program

July 19, 2012

On Wednesday, July 18, MFL President Kevin Rebeck participated in a federal/provincial consultation on a proposed new national infrastructure program scheduled to begin in 2014. The consultation was jointly hosted by the Honourable Steven Fletcher, federal Minister of State for Transport, and the Honourable Ron Lemieux, provincial Minister of Local Government.

The consultation was designed to hear from community stakeholders on the experience with the Building Canada plan, the most recent national infrastructure program, launched in Budget 2007. Participants were also asked to provide input on the design of the new program. The federal government openly asked for advice on increasing private, for-profit involvemnt in Canada’s infrastructure, including so-called public-private partnership arrangements (also kown as P3s).

Brother Rebeck urged the federal government not to use P3 models for infrastructure investment. He noted that P3 projects tend to cost more because private sector borrowing rates are higher and because private companies extract a profit from the projects. If the federal government does proceed with P3 approaches, he urged them to consider Manitoba’s recently passed Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act as a useful tool to ensure:

  • thorough cost-benefit analysis before any P3 projects are undertaken;
  • adequate public consutlation takes place before any P3 projects are approved; and
  • details of P3 projects are open, transparent and accountable to the public

Rebeck also urged that a new national infrastructure plan include a broad definition of infrastructure projects  that create jobs and improve quality of life in our communities. He suggested that the program include not just roads and bridges, but also health care facilities, social housing and community recreation facilities.

Rebeck also stressed the importance of renewed infrastructure investment to syupporting Canada’s economic recovery. he pointed out that the gloabl economy remains fragile and that this is no time fo governments to cut investments in valued public projects. He noted that infrastructure investment creates jobs and makes businesses more productive and efficient. 

The Manitoba Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives also participated, reinforcing the call for a  broad definition of infrastructure for the program, and cautioning against P3 approaches.