Thank you very much to the chair and to committee members. It's great to be back in front of the committee.
I want to start by recognizing that I am on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples. I am in my house, so hopefully there will be no interruptions. You never know.
I am certainly very pleased to be here to talk about the government's commitment to building back better, which is especially relevant as today is Earth Day. Happy Earth Day to everyone.
As I say, it's really about building the future we want. Infrastructure is a key role, and I'm here to talk about main and supplementary estimates to advance the government's national infrastructure plan. Of course, I'm very happy to be joined by Kelly Gillis, my deputy minister.
Well, COVID-19 has certainly reshaped so many aspects of our lives, including how we do committees, and of course, how we get around in our communities and how we connect with each other. The good news is that we will get through the pandemic, but as we do that, we need to think about ways to build back better.
We must build the Canada we want, with good jobs, a sustainable economy, cleaner air and more inclusive communities where people want to live, work and raise their families.
This week, Deputy Prime Minister Freeland tabled budget 2021, a plan that will help us conquer COVID-19 in the short term, punch our way out of the COVID-19 recession in the medium term, and build a more resilient and cleaner Canada.
This plan will help parents, particularly women, return to the workforce with more affordable and accessible child care, reaching $10 a day in the next five years. I don't have to tell any of the parents here how important that is.
It also invests in bold climate action, building on what we have already done and setting us on a path to reaching net zero emissions in 2050.
Today, on Earth Day, we acknowledge just how important climate action is, but I would say that in my role, I think about it every single day and about how infrastructure needs to help us tackle climate change and build more resilient communities.
Whether it's assessing the climate impacts of new roads and bridges or electrifying public transit and retrofitting buildings to become more energy-efficient, as we build back better we need to continue our fight against climate change. Every infrastructure decision is inevitably a climate decision too.
Infrastructure investments help create jobs, drive economic growth, tackle climate change and build more inclusive communities. To do this successfully, we're seeking $6.8 billion in the 2021-22 main estimates: $4.3 billion in grants and contributions to support 22 infrastructure programs, and $2.3 billion for the gas tax, now renamed the Canada Community-Building Fund, which I think is a far better name—assuming I got it right—all to ensure that communities across Canada have the money they need when they need it.
We're also seeking an increase of $2.2 million through supplementary estimates (C) for 2020-21. This funding will support the recent approval of the “Strengthening Stewardship of Canadian infrastructure: Long-Term Resourcing Strategy” Treasury Board submission, which granted Infrastructure Canada permanent operating funding. I can't tell you how excited that makes me, because we definitely need permanent operating funding.
I can see my deputy smile.
The additional funding will enable the department to meet existing obligations, maintain operations, and meet the evolving infrastructure needs in Canada, including driving to net zero by 2050.
This is what I want to talk a little bit more about today.
To be honest, I've always hated the word “infrastructure”, and I'm not the only one. John Baird, former minister of infrastructure, agrees with me. It's a made-up, bureaucratic word that undersells the final product. Talk to someone about their new community centre or about finally being hooked up to high-speed broadband or taking an electric bus, and you realize it is so much more.
It determines our quality of life and is critical for our economic growth, job creation and combatting the effects of climate change. Especially now, as we look towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 strengthened our resolve and spurred us to do more, to do it faster, and to do it more strategically.
We've accelerated project approvals under the Investing in Canada infrastructure program, and since March of last year, we have approved nearly 3,100 projects, representing a federal investment of more than $4.1 billion. These are projects in communities across the country.
This serves as a testament to the progress we're making with our Investing in Canada plan. We know the plan is working. Canadians know the plan is working: they see the progress in their communities. The federal government has invested more than $81billion for more than 67,000 projects, with 90% of them completed or under way. This means that 40% of the way into the plan, we've invested more than 40% of the funding.
But it's about more than the plan. We are doing so much more that is being counted under the Investing in Canada plan. We're moving forward with universal broadband, green and inclusive community buildings, and many other initiatives that were not part of the plan's original design, initiatives that help address issues raised by the pandemic, such as the COVID-19 resilience stream, the Canada healthy communities initiative and new funding for ventilation, the latter of which will reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by funding projects to improve ventilation for schools, hospitals, and other public buildings.
And initiatives that are helping us reach our climate targets, like the investments we're making in public transportation.
On February 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and I announced a federal plan to invest nearly $15 billion for new public transit infrastructure over the next eight years. This funding includes a long-term strategy to deliver $3 billion annually for public transit beginning in 2026-27. Since then, I've announced additional details around Canada's approach to public transit funding, including investments in 5,000 zero-emission buses and in such active transportation as cycling and walking paths, rural transit and more.
But we can't just build back better; we have to build back smarter. That's why we launched engagement on Canada's first-ever national infrastructure assessment. We will rely on experts, data and evidence to identify Canada's infrastructure needs and priorities out to 2050.