Thank you, Madam Chair.
It's a real pleasure to be in front of you and your colleagues today.
It's my first appearance at this committee, but as a start, I am very delighted to be with all of you and to talk about progress in infrastructure. I think, Madam Chair, that infrastructure touches the lives of Canadians in every community, whether urban or rural.
Good morning and thank you for inviting me, members of the committee.
I'm joined by Kelly Gillis, my very able deputy minister, who has been very active on this file to deliver for Canadians.
I'd like to start by acknowledging the outstanding work of my predecessor, Minister Sohi. Minister Sohi was responsible for this file, and we all know he's truly passionate about infrastructure, almost as much as he is about his hometown of Edmonton. He left a good legacy in the projects and the program. He's been a strong voice for his region, and obviously the province of Alberta, and continues to be in his new portfolio as Minister of Natural Resources.
I would also like to thank my Deputy Minister, and the whole department of Infrastructure Canada for their hard work and dedication over the past three years. Thanks to their continued efforts, we have made enormous progress in delivering modern infrastructure to Canadians everywhere in the country.
Let me give a brief overview. Since I was appointed Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, I was fortunate enough to see first-hand our investments in infrastructure across the country. I recently attended the groundbreaking for the Port Lands flood protection project in Toronto, which will help transform the Port Lands into beautiful new communities that will be surrounded by parks and green spaces. It will also add affordable housing to the Toronto region.
I also visited the Inuvik wind generation project in the Northwest Territories, which will provide an efficient, reliable and clean source of energy for Inuvik residents. I was pleased that this was the first project under the Arctic energy fund, which is helping to move communities in the north from diesel to renewable energy.
I also visited an underground garage in Montreal that will increase the city's fleet of metro cars, improve the frequency of service, and, of course, support the anticipated growth in ridership on Montreal's public transit.
Let me briefly touch on a few successes that we've had so far. Our plan of investing $180 billion over the next decade in infrastructure across the country is truly historic. I am proud of the progress we have made so far and the positive impact it has made on people across the country. The plan is being delivered by 14 federal departments and agencies.
All 70 new programs and initiatives are now launched and more than 32,000 infrastructure projects have already been approved. Nearly all are underway.
Since Minister Sohi's last appearance at this committee in May, I am pleased to note some of the significant milestones we have achieved together. The first one, which I'm very proud of, is the smart cities challenge. Finalists were announced this summer, and the winners will be announced in late spring 2019.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank announced its first investment, which is $1.28 billion in the Réseau express métropolitain in Montreal. With this investment, the bank does exactly what it was intended to do: free up grant funding so that we can build more infrastructure for Canadians.
Despite the fact that very little was done to advance this important project when we formed government, the Gordie Howe international bridge is now finally under way. That is truly historic for Canada. We know the Windsor-Detroit corridor has about 30% of all merchandise trade between Canada and the United States. This project is truly building on our current and future prosperity.
Infrastructure Canada has also signed bilateral agreements with all of the provinces and territories for the next decade. We have already approved funding under these new guidelines for
the Green Line in Calgary, the Millennium Line extension in British Columbia,
and Azur subway trains for Montreal,
and the water treatment system in the Comox Valley Regional District in British Columbia.
Lastly, we also launched the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund. We've already received a number of applications for funding and are currently reviewing them.
I also had the pleasure to meet with my provincial and territorial counterparts in September. One key item we discussed was how to better match the flow of our funding and our processes with the construction season in the sense that we want to make our intake, review and approval process faster and better, and make sure that our processes, whether federal, provincial or territorial, are in line with the construction season. I have impressed on my colleagues that we need to work diligently on that.
I visited several projects where work is well under way, but the claims for reimbursements have not been submitted, for example the Cherry Street water and lake-filling project in Toronto and the Côte-Vertu garage in Montreal, Quebec. To address this issue, we recently launched a pilot project with Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Alberta to test the effectiveness of a progressive billing approach. We know that Canadians want to see funds that match milestones in projects, a “percentage of completion” type of approach, and we have asked our colleagues in the provinces to work with us to achieve that outcome as well.
In closing, I would like to thank the committee members for giving me this opportunity to update you. I hope that together, with each member of the committee, we will be able to build 21st-century infrastructures, modern, durable and green, for all Canadians.