On behalf of our 1,900 members, I would like to thank you for inviting us today. This discussion is important for our members. I would also like to say that our president, Mr. Hans Cunningham, was not available this morning, but he sends his regards.
I am going to make some fairly brief remarks so that we have a lot of time for questions and answers. There are really three topics we would like to talk about today. The first is what the municipalities have done to make the economic action plan a success. Next, what is the status, from our perspective today, with respect to the economic action plan, and what are the next steps we think the government should take? Finally, I will finish with a word about what is really our top priority: building a vision for when stimulus is finished.
Before getting to that, though, there are two points I'd really like to underline. One is that municipalities have a huge stake in Canada's stimulus plan. We have been working flat out to make it a success, and we want to put every single dollar to use in the stimulus plan to create jobs and continue building a stronger Canada.
The second thing I want to underline is that we really welcome the recent commitment by the government to be fair and reasonable when it comes to the stimulus deadline.
First, let's talk a bit about what we have achieved. What I remember is that two years ago, Canada fell into the worst recession, and municipalities came forward saying that we were ready to help, that we were ready to play our role in fighting this national crisis.
At that time, FCM produced some research showing that the best way to create jobs and the best way to boost the economy was to invest in infrastructure. In fact, our research said that when fighting a recession, investing in infrastructure is twice as effective as tax cuts. In the weeks before the economic action plan, we produced a list of shovel-ready projects just to demonstrate that municipalities were ready and able to respond very quickly in this kind of crisis. We had the facts on our side, and we were ready to go to work to fight this national crisis.
In January 2009, we applauded the government's decision to make infrastructure a cornerstone of the economic action plan. In the following months, new funding was rolled out in record time, but as in all these programs, there were some challenges. It took time for the government to negotiate funding agreements, design programs, and approve projects in 13 provinces and territories. These challenges created time pressures that we're still feeling and still trying to deal with today.
Let's be honest. There's no denying that we achieved an awful lot in 20 months since the stimulus plan was launched. More than 20,000 stimulus projects are under way. There has been more than $10 billion worth of investment from the different orders of government. We have created over 100,000 jobs. That's more than 50%, or half the jobs promised when the economic action plan was launched.
Where are we today?
I said that municipalities have been working flat out. Infrastructure Canada has been working closely with the provinces and territories to monitor these projects. They found that the vast majority of the projects are under way and are on track. As for FCM, we have been keeping close tabs on our members. We talk to our colleagues in the provinces and territories across the country, and they're all telling us that in most places, most projects are on or ahead of schedule. But there are communities and regions where circumstances have caused delays, such as flooding in Saskatchewan and hurricanes in Newfoundland. These all have an impact on progress toward the end of these projects.
But there are also communities where projects got off to an unusually late start because of drawn-out, lengthy negotiations between the federal government and the provinces and delays in program design and project approval. This is particularly significant in the province of Quebec. Every day, our members in Quebec are working hard towards completing these projects, but many of them are behind schedule, and there will need to be some flexibility provided.
What's next? We continue to work together—federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments—to help pull Canada out of this recession. Things have not gone perfectly. This is a highly complicated program to deliver, and this is why we have been calling for flexibility all along.
When it comes to the stimulus deadline, we welcome the federal government's promise to be fair and reasonable. We really have three recommendations for the government for it to live up to this commitment.
First, the government should commit immediately to showing flexibility wherever a community has worked hard and played by the rules but requires more time to finish stimulus projects. It should encourage the provinces and territories to do the same thing.
Second, the government should direct the public service to start working with individual communities to adjust project schedules as necessary.
Third, the federal government must work with the Province of Quebec to develop a strategy for completing stimulus projects in that province.
In conclusion, up until now all three stimulus partners have shown flexibility where necessary. In setting up the program, the government showed flexibility in negotiating with each province and territory a program that fit their particular regional needs. Municipalities showed flexibility by coming forward with a bunch of projects, keeping them alive, and waiting while the program was set up, the agreements were put in place, and the projects were improved.
Now, as we enter the home stretch of the stimulus plan, it's clear that continued flexibility is the key to continued success. But as I said at the start, there's one final thing we would like to underline, and that is the question of what happens when stimulus is done.
We believe that we need a long-term plan for investing in our infrastructure in our communities, a plan that goes beyond the next six months. I'm not talking about more stimulus; I'm not talking about more short-term spending. We know we're into a period of fiscal constraint; we know the coffers are really tight and the lean years are upon us. Thus, we believe it's really important to take this moment to take time to take stock of our long-term infrastructure needs, to start designing the next generation of federal infrastructure programs, and to understand that infrastructure is critical to our economic health and competitiveness.
This period of time gives us a chance to plan so that as the economy strengthens and the resources become available, the resources can follow a plan that is in place and move quickly to support ongoing infrastructure investments in this country. That way, when the fiscal outlook improves, we will be in a position to protect our recent gains and build infrastructure needs to thrive in a 21st-century Canada.
Merci beaucoup de votre attention.