Trudeau government looking at speeding up promised infrastructure spending

The Trudeau government is "actively considering" speeding up promised investments in infrastructure in a bid to stimulate Canada's rapidly deteriorating economy.

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is “actively considering” speeding up promised investments in infrastructure in a bid to stimulate Canada’s rapidly deteriorating economy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during last fall’s election campaign to pump an additional $60 billion over 10 years into infrastructure projects.

But less than half that money — $17.4 billion — was earmarked to flow during the Liberals’ first mandate.

The platform committed to spending an extra $5 billion for each of the first two years and $3.45 billion in each of the next two years.

However, The Canadian Press has learned the government is now looking at moving up the spending schedule, pushing the money out faster in response to worsening economic conditions.

Commodity prices have continued to slide, the dollar has nosedived and already sluggish economic growth has slowed to a crawl in the three months since Trudeau won election on a platform focused on stimulating the economy and improving the lot of middle class Canadians.

The details of any new infrastructure spending will be unveiled in the federal budget, likely sometime in mid to late March.

The deteriorating situation has already forced the Liberals to rethink their pledge to run up deficits of no more than $10 billion in each of the first three years of their mandate. Trudeau has downgraded that promise to a “goal.”

While they may yet have to scale back some of their other pricey campaign promises, Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau have doubled down on the infrastructure spending, arguing that the worsening economic picture only reinforces the need to stimulate growth.

During an event Wednesday with Toronto Mayor John Tory, Trudeau said his government has no plans to scale back its infrastructure spending.

“The infrastructure investments that the mayor is counting on are not a problem — they are part of the solution to the challenges that Canada has been facing,” Trudeau said.

“That’s exactly what we’re serious about tackling.”

On Tuesday, Morneau argued that “there has just never been a better time to make targeted investments to support economic growth in this country.”

Last week, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz also weighed in, calling infrastructure spending an “important ingredient” in economic growth.

Sources say the Liberals are looking at speeding up infrastructure spending — “actively considering” it, in the words of one insider — but they want to ensure they go beyond the gazebos, park upgrades, public washrooms and beautification projects that were funded in Ontario’s cottage country in advance of the 2010 G8 summit.

The Liberal platform talked about investing in more ambitious projects with long-term benefits: public transit, affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, child care, “climate resilient” infrastructure, flood mitigation and wastewater systems.

Trudeau said Wednesday that his government wants to make sure it’s spending money “on the right things” to create jobs and spur the economy in the short term, but also in the long run.

“We’re going to do this right, we’re going to do this responsibly.”

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said earlier Wednesday that the government is looking at expediting spending on projects already queued to receive federal cash through existing infrastructure funds.

“We have billions of dollars that we have not spent over the last two years that we can expedite this year and next year, as well as going through the budget process to allocate the additional $60 billion.”

Sohi has said funding will flow to shovel-ready projects that cities and provinces identify as priorities.

He said the government is asking cities and provinces to finalize the list of priority projects so they can be quickly reviewed and green-lighted for funding. Those projects, he said, need not be new work, but revamping existing infrastructure.

“If we can do things more quickly in those areas, those are the things that we are also going to be looking at,” he said.

Some critics have already questioned how the Liberals will find enough worthwhile, shovel-ready projects on which to spend the $5 billion promised for infrastructure this year, much less any additional money. Still others have wondered whether the Liberals should loosen their restrictions to spread the new cash equally between transit, “green” project and “social” infrastructure.

Those kind of details will be finalized after consultations with provinces and cities, Sohi said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the greater lag time between first and second doses will allow more Albertans to be effectively vaccinated sooner. (File photo)
Alberta extends time between vaccine doses means more people to get shot sooner

National Advisory Committee on Immunization says doses can be to up to four months apart

People watch the sun set in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
OPEC cartel, allies face decision on increasing oil output

OPEC Plus made deep cuts in output in 2020 to stave off a collapse in prices

The Twitter Canada office in Toronto is shown in this undated handout photo. Twitter Inc. will be bulking up on Canadian talent this year with a hiring spree meant to add dozens of engineers in the country to its staff. The San Francisco, Calif.-based social media giant said Thursday that it plans to form its first Canadian engineering hub with at least 24 new workers it will soon hire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Twitter Canada
Twitter to launch engineering hub in Canada with dozens of hires this year

Twitter says technical talent has been evolving in the Canada recently

Jim Lowes, a living kidney donor who was inspired by Humboldt Broncos bus crash victim Logan Boulet, is photographed at his home in Burlington, Ont., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Green Shirt Day, April 7, was started after the crash that killed 16 people and coincides with the anniversary of Logan Boulet’s death. Boulet’s family donated his organs after the crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Three years after Broncos bus crash, Logan Boulet still inspiring organ donation

Nearly 147,000 Canadians registered to be donors in two months

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2021, file photo, a vehicle rests on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods in the Rancho Palos Verdes suburb of Los Angeles. Detectives are looking at data from the so-called “black box” of Tiger Woods’ SUV to get a clearer picture of what occurred during the Southern California rollover crash last week that seriously injured the golf star, authorities said Wednesday, March 3. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Detectives look at SUV’s ‘black box’ from Tiger Woods crash

California law allows law enforcement to seek search warrants for data recorders

FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2019 file photo, Alex Kurtzman, from left, Heather Kadin, Anson Mount, Sonequa Martin-Green and Ethan Peck participate in the “Star Trek: Discovery” show panel during the CBS All Access presentation at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington in Pasadena, Calif. Paramount+ debuts Thursday, March 4, 2021 as the latest — and last — streaming option from a major media company, this time from ViacomCBS. The company hopes its smorgasbord of offerings — live sports and news, reboots of its properties like “Frasier” and “Rugrats,” original shows like “Star Trek: Discovery” and the ViacomCBS library will entice viewers(Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)
Will Paramount+ be a mountain or a molehill in streaming?

Over the last year and a half more and more streaming services have debuted

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can accommodate up to 20 patients requiring a ventilator, says Alberta Health Services.  File photo by Advocate staff
Opinion: UCP government reneging on Red Deer hospital funding

Another year, another Alberta budget and another blow to central Albertans. Budget… Continue reading

Seattle Storm guards Sue Bird, right, and Jordin Canada pose for photos Wednesday, March 3, 2021, on the roof of the Space Needle in Seattle after they raised a flag with the team's new logo on it. Bird re-signed with the Storm earlier in the week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Lille players celebrate after Jonathan David scored his side's second goal during the French League One soccer match between Lille and Marseille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky, right, passes the ball in front of Argentina forward Sole Jaimes (9) during the second half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Alphonso Davies and Shelina Zadorsky have been named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Phelan M. Ebenhack
Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Most Read