Evidence of meeting #3 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was infrastructure.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Karen Wilson  Assistant Chief Statistician, National Accounts and Analytical Studies Field, Statistics Canada
  • Marilyn MacPherson  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services Branch, Privy Council Office
  • Stephen Richardson  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Finance
  • Michel Girard  Director, Industry Accounts Division, Statistics Canada
  • Paul Rochon  Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Simon Kennedy  Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultation, Privy Council Office

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Okay.

Can I ask a similar question about the working income tax benefit? It's certainly not in Bill C-10.

Noon

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Finance

Stephen Richardson

No, it is not in Bill C-10, because the working income tax benefit increase involves consultations with provinces with respect to the design as it applies in each province.

The main element of the working income tax benefit is to try to supplement income where there's a loss of benefits, usually provincial benefits, as a result of a lower-income person beginning to work or working more. To make that effective, both the existing working income tax benefit and any supplement to it have to be worked out in some detail with each of the provinces. We're in the process of doing that.

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

I note that a national securities regulator will need cooperation with the provinces as well, but at least the funding for it is in Bill C-10.

On another point, in reference to the consultations in terms of infrastructure spending, I have heard several people refer to consultations with provinces and to the good news that provinces sound as though they're ready to match.

But my understanding of the Building Canada Fund process, under which most of the infrastructure promises have been made in the budget, in Bill C-10, is that it also requires municipal matching. I'd like to know if, in those consultations, you did include consultations with the municipalities, and were the municipalities similarly positive about their ability to match funds?

Noon

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Finance

Stephen Richardson

I think the consultations did involve some discussions with representatives of municipalities, and I think with respect to municipalities there was some positive indication as well in a number of cases, although there were also indications from municipalities that they felt they had some challenges in terms of raising financing and funding because of the general situation for municipalities.

In this regard, I would point out that the budget provides for up to $2 billion of low-cost funding for municipalities through CMHC.

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Yes, I understand that, but from where this is coming from, and certainly in our prebudget consultations with municipalities, the message was overwhelming that they would not in fact be able to match.

Therefore, my question relates to a larger question. This 1.9% of GDP, which is dependent on the leverage, of course, because we are not a unitary state, does depend on provincial and municipal contributions. If the municipalities overwhelmingly have been saying they can't match, how does that affect the 1.9% projection?

Noon

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Finance

Stephen Richardson

The number you refer to does involve matching, but that is a reference to the incremental stimulus in the specific provisions that increase infrastructure funding. Those could be matched totally by the province. They don't have to be matched by the municipality, so that can be fifty-fifty.

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

But isn't the Building Canada Fund approach that this is under require matching of a quarter or a third in many cases, which would require the municipalities to contribute a significant amount?

Noon

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Finance

Stephen Richardson

You're referring to the existing Building Canada program, as it existed before the 2009 budget, and as it continues.

The new measures in the 2009 budget were expressly designed to be matched up to 50%, as opposed to a third, a third, and a third. Therefore, as long as a provincial government is willing to match the federal portion, those funds can go ahead without municipal matching and can be spent on municipal infrastructure.

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

I would point out that the Building Canada Fund as it is now, prior to this budget, also provides for a significant amount, up to 50%, but our understanding is that barely 5% of the announcements have in fact been spent, in large measure because of the municipalities' inability.

So am I correct in saying that, of the infrastructure funding announcements we have now, the municipalities will not be required to match if the provinces can do the 50% match in their stead?

Noon

Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Paul Rochon

With respect to new spending in the 2009 budget, that is correct.

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

That's interesting news.

Do I have time for a quick question?

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

No. You're way over. I'm sorry, but we'll get back to you.

Monsieur Roy for five minutes.

February 10th, 2009 / 12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have the same question because I was the mayor of a municipality for a long time. I do not think that a single provincial government is going to come up with 50% of the cost so that an infrastructure program can get underway. If the federal government is providing 50%, I do not see many provincial governments also coming up with 50% to get to 100%.

This question goes to the Statistics Canada representatives and I will come back to the Department of Finance shortly. I would like to know if you already have a study on the debt level of municipalities in Canada and on the municipalities' ability to take on a new infrastructure program that requires them to go even deeper into debt.

12:05 p.m.

Assistant Chief Statistician, National Accounts and Analytical Studies Field, Statistics Canada

Karen Wilson

We do have statistics on municipal debt. It's not provided at the individual municipal level, but by province.

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Can you give me an idea for all cities and municipalities in Canada? Do you have a figure in mind now?