Mr. Speaker, one of my Bloc colleagues is complaining over there. Thank goodness that the PQ is now on the other side of the house in the National Assembly of Quebec because it was the PQ that cut back continually on cities in Quebec. The UMQ continually went after the premiers of the day in Quebec and there was no help from the Bloc. Maybe they should take a look at their record in Quebec under the separatists: absolutely useless when it came to infrastructure. Obviously I got their attention, but the problem over there is that they like to talk but they do not like to deliver. They never delivered when it came to those issues.
I want to point out that when it comes to water, sewage treatment plants and rapid transit, this government has been there to invest, and in public libraries as well. All of this is because of the investment that the government has done in conjunction with our partners. We are continuing to do that and we will do more because we are committed to this program.
Let me point out that in 2000 we launched a $2 billion infrastructure Canada program in partnership with provinces and municipalities. This now is funding projects across the country, particularly in the area of water and waste water infrastructure, which I am sure is important to all members in the House. I would also point out that in 2001 we provided $2 billion for the Canada strategic infrastructure program.
What is important is that these are municipally generated programs. This is not the Government of Canada saying, “We know what is best and we are going to tell you what you need”. These are municipally driven. Anyone who has any notion of what municipally driven means knows it means that the cities set the priorities and come to the table with proposals.
Let me give an example. My own region, York region, came forward with a quick start program and put $50 million on the table. We then put $50 million on the table. The province of Ontario languished. In November, it was going to announce with us, then it said no, it had to wait. Then it was going to do it in January. It put that off. We finally and unilaterally announced the money at the end of March. We finally smoked out the Ontario government.
Last week, finally, Ontario put its $50 million on the table. However, we have lost a whole season for construction. That is the Ontario government, which of course says to have faith in the provinces. We could not even get $50 million out of it to match what the private and municipal sectors put on the table with the federal government, because the Ontario government thought it was going to have an election, I assume, and it wanted to do it within that 37 day period. It wanted to play politics. We wanted to put it on the table, and we had it there with our friends and said let us go ahead.
We also have an expansion of convention centres, right here in the city of Ottawa and in Vancouver. There was the cleanup of the Halifax harbour and the expansion of the Red River floodway. These are all municipally generated programs. They suggested them, we looked at them, they made sense and we went forward, again with other participation. Some provinces have been a little more quick to be at the table. I would congratulate the Province of Alberta in that Alberta continually has been very supportive of a national infrastructure program. That has been important.
There also has been recent funding through the border infrastructure fund, which assists projects that improve the flow of goods and services between Canada and the United States. So far, commitments have been made in Windsor, Sarnia and Niagara, and of course I know that the initiative is very important because it also has happened in the lower mainland in British Columbia.
I think we have demonstrated very clearly the work the government has done in the area of infrastructure, but members can rest assured that we are going to go further. Last year the Speech from the Throne committed the government to put in place a 10 year infrastructure program. It is something for which municipal governments have been asking for years and years, because municipal governments need to plan. The way they plan on a capital program is on a five year or ten year cycle. They need to know, so we put an initial investment down with regard to that. That was very important, because again we are looking at leveraging.
A lot of people talk about infrastructure in the House and forget the word leveraging. They forget the fact that the provinces, the municipalities and the private sector also put in money to leverage. For every $1 they put down, they get $2. It makes sense. As I have said, that 10 year infrastructure program will accommodate the long term strategic initiatives essential to competitiveness and to sustainability in terms of growth, which again I will say is part of this government's agenda.
It is important to note that a few months ago we backed up this commitment with a significant down payment of $3 billion as an initial payment toward this. It was very important. As we know, the Canada strategic infrastructure fund is for large projects in large urban areas. I listed a few of them minutes ago. We must keep in mind that the FCM said it wanted to do things with regard to the environment, so it wanted to look at getting a fund that would help in that regard. It proposed the FCM green enabling fund. The government initially put in $150 million. This revolving fund was such a success, and I know the New Democratic Party was pleased about this, that the government put in another $150 million because the fund is doing the kinds of things that from an environmental standpoint and infrastructure standpoint are important in communities across the country.
We talk about stable funding, and this is also important. The fact is that the government has had numerous infrastructure programs in conjunction with our partners. The government sat down and worked with them, again, though, always saying that the premise is that those programs had to be municipally driven. Otherwise, a top down approach is not going to work. We do not support that.
This has been important for communities in the Northwest Territories. It has been important for the City of Yellowknife. I had the pleasure of working for many years with the then mayor of the City of Yellowknife, Pat McMahon, who worked tirelessly to make sure that those federal funds, in conjunction with those of the government of the Northwest Territories, helped improve water, sewer and roads in her community.
There were testimonials from mayors across the country who realized the importance of this. I think that is important to recognize. It is all part and parcel of competitive cities, not only on this continent but around the world.
Our friends across the way are saying it is about faith, that provinces may take the tax room, that we will have an arrangement with the provinces whereby they will take the money and make sure it goes to where it is needed. The difficulty is that sometimes the provinces have short memories.
As we know, often in the area of health care we hear that government is giving x number of cents, but the tax points are forgotten. Tax points of course mean that we vacate and the provinces receive revenue we otherwise would have. Yet the great myth the Alliance always talks about is the 14¢. I think now their myth of what we give on health care is up to 18¢. This is utter nonsense. The reality is that they do not include the tax points and we no doubt would have the same nonsense if we went ahead with this proposed situation.
At the same time, one of the members across the way raised some very important issues with regard to mad cow disease and SARS. If we had the dedicated tax the hon. member wants, we would have no flexibility whatsoever, and emergencies do come along. However, when one is in opposition one can ask for $3 billion one day, ask for a cut of $2 billion the next day, say to raise $4 billion the next day, and tell us to spend, spend, spend. That is not prudent financing.
This government has its fiscal house in order. We have eliminated the national deficit of $42.5 billion. Canada is the only G-7 country paying off its national debt. It has gone from 71.5% of GDP down to 44% and falling. It is because of those initiatives, because of the single minded purpose on this side of the House, that we are able to have the types of programs I have talked about today to help communities across this country.
There are the prairie grain growers, with $175 million over 2001-06 in federal funding; from the agriculture department, $159 million. If one were to listen to members across the way one would think there was absolutely no money going to communities across this country. They should take a look at that. They should take the time to talk to some of their municipal colleagues and find out.
Affordable housing is another good example of what this government has done. There is $680 million on the table and again there is another problem with Ontario. We put money on the table and the province basically said it would not put any money down but would use in kind, put forth by municipalities. It was their money. Essentially Ontario did not come to the table. That is a problem. It is a problem because this country is about partnerships. One of the most effective partnerships this government has discovered is that of working with municipal leaders across Canada and addressing those issues. Again I will refer to the fact that the party across the way is only now recognizing this as an important issue
I would like to point out that it is not simply about roads, bridges and sewers. It is about issues dealing with the environment, making our communities better in terms of cleaner air. Cleaner air is very important. We worked with cities in recognizing what they wanted. I refer back to the green enabling fund and how important that was for projects to move forward.
In April 2000 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities supported 226 initiatives and approved $36 million in funding through the green enabling fund, which has a total value of $134 million. It is an obvious example, not only of stable funding, but of cooperation and partnership. We do not just talk about it, we deliver.
The 2003 budget announced several new environmental initiatives including $3 billion to help cities improve the quality of life for their citizens. That included $2 billion over five years to implement the government's climate change plan for Canada to improve air quality for Canadians, and to ensure that people who suffer from emphysema, for example, could breathe better because of those types of initiatives. The 90% reduction of sulphur in gas, for example, is very important. The fact is that since 1993, discounting provincial, municipal and others, $30 billion has come from the federal government to deal with infrastructure issues. That is $30 billion more than we had in the previous regime.
If the Canadian Alliance were to have its way, until recently I guess, it would have followed in the footsteps of the Conservative Party. It would not have helped the cities. Alliance members have never been on record as supporting cities, except when their leader went to the FCM the other week and suddenly, on the road to Damascus, he saw the light and said “We are going to assist cities on infrastructure”. That is great. We like that because now I will not have to argue with Alliance members about why this is an important issue. We know it is important.
It is unfathomable to me how the Alliance Party can suggest that we are going to simply turn over. We have read the motion. It says that we should do this with the consent of the provinces. Provinces will of course sign on to anything where they think they will get more money. However, one of the comments that I have heard in the House is how the provinces need more money.
Let us check the record because it is very clear. Provinces have the same fiscal capacity to raise money that the government does, but of course they would rather not do that because obviously they do not find it politically palatable. However, they have the same ability to do so.
Bloc members have made a career out of complaining about federal transfers. This was the same party that held up the budget implementation bill earlier when we in fact had put more money into the hands of Quebeckers. However, they would rather complain.
I want to again emphasize that it is because of these kinds of programs that we have that flexibility. We are able to come up with new initiatives, such as the cultural space program for cities, which is very important, as well as affordable housing. However, if we were to tie our hands as the party across the way would do, we would not be able to do that. We would not be able to respond to new initiatives and we would have some cases where money would be over supplied in one area and underfunded in others, and that would not be very useful.
I want to point out again the importance of this program to the government and of the many initiatives that we have taken. I look forward to the continuing debate in the House as the day goes on.