Friday, September 19, 2008

Day 12 Recap: The Choice on Infrastructure and Cities

Yesterday at an excellent event showcasing Stéphane Dion and the Liberal team, the Liberals released an extremely bold plan for infrastructure, investing in our cities and public transit to deal with the massive infrastructure deficit this country faces. We need to start tackling this issue now and not it leave it for future generations to pick up the pieces and I’m glad to see the liberals are up for the job. Below are the details of the plan.

The Liberal long-term infrastructure plan will:

o create a 10-year plan to invest $70 billion in much-needed infrastructure;
o devote all unanticipated annual budget surplus funds beyond a $3-billion contingency reserve to infrastructure;
o create an Infrastructure Bank to make available to each level of government low-cost financing for major infrastructure projects such as regional energy grids or high-speed rail.

• As part of the $70-billion plan, the Liberals will honour all existing framework agreements that have been signed with the provinces

Liberal priorities for the $70-billion commitment over 10 years will include:
o at least $10 billion of strategic infrastructure, particularly green infrastructure such as water and sewage treatment, and clean energy grids;
o at least $8 billion for a National Transit Strategy to enable cities to expand their transit systems and green their transit fleets;
o at least $3 billion for a dedicated Small Communities Fund;
o at least $4.5 billion for our country’s gateways, corridors and borders; and
o at least $3 billion for sports and recreational facilities
• In addition the 10-year plan includes the transfer of almost $25 billion to the municipalities through the gas tax transfer. This transfer would be indexed to nominal GDP growth so that municipalities have the funding certainty they need to keep up with economic growth.
• For the first time, the Liberals will also establish a policy to devote any unanticipated surplus- over and above a $3-billion contingency fund to ensure fiscal prudence - to investment in infrastructure. This would have represented $7 billion in 2007-08 alone, and nearly $75 billion if this approach had been taken over the last ten years. The top priority will be investment in sustainable infrastructure: public transit, water systems, green energy, waste management and contaminated sites.
• A new Liberal government will also develop an Infrastructure Bank as an additional tool to finance infrastructure investment. This bank will provide low-cost financing for all orders of government that choose to borrow from it. It will also help finance long-term infrastructure projects such as regional energy grids or high-speed rail.
• Through the Infrastructure Bank, Canadians across the country would have the opportunity to participate in the Bank’s projects through the purchase of tax-free Green Bonds, which would be similar to Canada Savings Bonds, but with the money directed toward investments in renewable energy infrastructure or other investments that will clean up our environment and strengthen our economy. The returns on their investment through these Green Bonds would be tax free.
• Through these commitments, a Liberal government would be a willing partner for mega projects like an East-West energy grid, an Atlantic Energy Corridor, a carbon
capture and sequestration pipeline between Alberta and Saskatchewan and
high-speed rail links in Canada’s busiest commuter corridors.

It’s no wonder such a comprehensive plan has been lauded by the Federal of Canadian Municipalities and mayors across the country.

This in stark contrast to the Conservative attitude of saying they aren’t in the “pot-hole business” and calling municipal leaders “whiners” for caring about their cities’ needs. The Conservatives have no plan for public transit or our cities, don’t care about the environment, and are content with the belief that targeted tax credits are all we need to solve the problems of the future.

The reality though is infrastructure is another issue that cannot wait. Just as was noted in McGuinty's MoveOntario 2020 infrastructure plan, it will cost far more to wait a decade to fix our infrastructure problems than to fix them now. We can put our heads in the sands and watch our cities and municipalities crumble further, watch gridlock get worse and worse and do little to improve our public transportation systems, but really that is a recipe for disaster. It is yet one more reason why the Conservatives can’t be trusted to manage our economy, they don’t understand it and they aren’t willing to tackle the challenges now that will create a better country for tomorrow.

Yet one more reason to vote Liberal.

UPDATE: Day 13: A Liberal plan for farmers and rural Canada Vs. “'Cold cuts' crack still haunting Harper

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