Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for the invitation to appear before your committee. I welcome this opportunity to discuss the priorities of the Transport, Infrastructure and Communities portfolio. As you have already mentioned, I'm joined by a couple of very able people: Yaprak Baltacioglu; and associate DM for infrastructure, John Forster.
The transportation sector plays a critical role in the Canadian economy and in the daily lives of Canadians, and our infrastructure investments are likewise touching every community. They're providing better-quality roads, cleaner water, and renewed community buildings, and at the same time helping to create jobs when the economy most needs it.
I'd like to speak to you today about both transportation and infrastructure.
The transportation system has always been identified with opportunity in Canada, connecting the country coast to coast to coast; connecting workers with jobs, travellers with destinations and products with markets.
It's a system that's recognized as one of the safest in the world. However, this is also a critical time for the transportation sector. The world is changing and technologies are changing, and these changes are coming at a time of ongoing global economic volatility, particularly as the recovery remains weak in the United States, our largest trading partner.
The government recognizes that a more connected world offers Canada enormous opportunities for trade. Efficient, safe, secure, and clean transportation systems that link Canada to the world are vital to realize these opportunities.
There are a number of global pressures that will have an impact on demands placed on our transportation system well into the future. They include continued global restructuring, driven in part by the rise of new economic powers such as China, India, and Brazil; ongoing security threats that I'm sure you'll want to talk about; rising demand for Canada's natural resources; and pressure to address the environmental impacts of both industry and consumer activities.
Canada's ability to compete globally will continue to depend to a large degree on the strength of an integrated, secure, and reliable transportation system to support trade. We cannot be complacent in the face of these challenges, and I want to share a few thoughts on how the portfolio is prepared to deal with these challenges.
Our approach will need to continue to depend on forming effective partnerships across public and private sectors and with key domestic and international players. We want to ensure that we maximize the benefits from the strategic infrastructure investments we have made in recent years, and we want to continue to build on the partnerships and collaboration we have built through our infrastructure funds.
Let me speak for a moment on our infrastructure investments, what we have achieved, and how we will look to the future. Since the government introduced our economic action plan in January 2009, we've invested approximately $10.7 billion in federal funds toward more than 6,100 projects. Working with our partners, we are jointly investing over $30 billion in Canadian infrastructure, and our partners have applauded our partnership in helping deliver infrastructure projects that are important to them.
In addition, our government built upon infrastructure programs that were already in place. We accelerated existing long-term funding under the $33 billion Building Canada fund. We created a $4 billion infrastructure stimulus fund, and a $1 billion green infrastructure fund. We provided a $500 million top-up to the Building Canada fund communities component, and we built a truly national partnership with the provinces, territories, and municipalities.
And I was very pleased that the Auditor General's report earlier this week also underscored that the Economic Action Plan is being delivered effectively. Her report says the Government of Canada reacted quickly and effectively to design and implement the plan and fund eligible projects.
Since last May, when Minister Baird met with you, we have made significant progress. As of the end of September, provinces, territories, and municipalities have reported that work is completed on about five times as many projects under the infrastructure stimulus fund as they reported last March.
We're also pleased to see that more than 61% of projects are being constructed at least 30 days faster than originally forecast. That's good news, and in fact, 99% of the reported infrastructure stimulus fund and communities component top-up projects are now under way or completed. These projects put people to work when the economy needed it most and will provide infrastructure that will serve Canadians for generations to come.
It is important to note that as the economic action plan winds down, a plan that was always intended to be temporary, timely, and targeted, and as projects complete construction, the Government of Canada has made a long-term commitment to work with the provinces, territories, and municipalities to build world-class public infrastructure.
The $33 billion Building Canada plan complements the economic action plan, and whereas the economic action plan targeted the shovel-ready projects that could kick-start the economy, the Building Canada plan focuses on the longer-term projects that require more time to plan and build. That means that funding for these projects, under programs like the Building Canada fund, will continue to flow past next March.
As well, this government increased the gas tax fund to $2 billion a year and made that permanent. Municipalities can rely on this funding and use it when they need it, whether that is as they receive it or sometime in the future.
Mr. Chairman, we also need to continue building stronger links not only within Canada but also with our international partners. I mentioned earlier transformative changes taking place in the global economy and the transportation system that supports it.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit China to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Canada's diplomatic relations with China. Many community members have traveled to China and I am certain they were as impressed as I was by the rapid economic growth and the great strides in building a transportation infrastructure to sustain that growth.
China is already Canada's second largest merchandise trading partner and our third largest export market. Moreover, I encountered everywhere enthusiastic support for stronger trade ties and a transportation system that will bring us closer together. By building stronger partners in the transportation systems here in Canada, partnerships that bring industry and all levels of government together, we put ourselves in an excellent position to create stronger trade partnerships around the world.
That was clearly evident while meeting both with companies and with government officials in general in China. They are very pleased, I can say, with what Canada has been able to put together here. It was a very encouraging visit, from my perspective.
We have been making the changes necessary to keep pace. We will continue to focus clearly on the future needs of the transportation system in a fast changing-world.
There are lessons to be learned from today's global supply chain. That is why we cannot address the challenges I have outlined earlier in isolation. They are all interconnected and that is why the partnerships across industry and other jurisdictions are so critical to our competitiveness and success as a trading nation.
This approach underpins our Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative, for example. We are applying the lessons learned from this initiative to our other gateways. One of the most important lessons from the Asia-Pacific gateway initiative is that it takes much more than infrastructure to prove the integrity and efficiency of a gateway and corridor. It takes the right governance structure and the appropriate regulatory environment. It takes policies that are integrated across all jurisdictions and every stakeholder must pull together with a common objective in sight.
It is a truly creative approach to bringing different modes together in a way that hasn't been done before. It means working more closely and more effectively with all public and private sector stakeholders to maximize the efficiency of the global supply chains.
Our partnership approach has become our strategic advantage, and our gateway approach has caught international attention both in China and the United States as a best practice.
Many are trying to adopt our model. That means we can't be complacent. We have to stay ahead to remain competitive, and I see this is one of my major priorities, and I'm sure the priority of this committee, as we move forward. It's an exciting time to be involved in the transportation sector and to invest in infrastructure, and I'm motivated by the challenges I face as the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
I'm inspired by great opportunities. We play an integral role in the economy of this country and in our trade opportunities worldwide. In many ways, the world has never been more interconnected by our transportation system, so that means there's a great opportunity. I don't think we've ever had such support from all stakeholders in these partnerships to strengthen the integrity of Canada's transportation systems, and of course delivering the needed infrastructure is a good part of helping to make that work as well.
Mr. Chairman, I'm looking forward to working with you and the committee in the months ahead. I welcome any questions you may have.