That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize that the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure plays a vital role in the creation and protection of jobs, and that infrastructure is a strategic asset that supports vibrant, prosperous and sustainable communities; (b) act immediately to counter the crisis of crumbling infrastructure and the very real risks it poses to the economy, security, and the quality of life of Canadians; (c) develop a legislative framework, with clear targets, to provide sustainable, predictable and long term infrastructure funding agreements with provinces, territories, municipalities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities; (d) cooperate with stakeholders to encourage the use of sustainable and innovative infrastructure design models, and to develop sustainable building codes that favour energy and water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and take into account changing demographics and evolving rural-urban linkages; (e) index the Gas Tax Fund to economic and population growth and increase the existing gas tax transfer by one cent per litre, and consider other alternative funding mechanisms to ensure municipalities, large and small, have the long-term capacity to build and maintain public infrastructure; and (f) acknowledge its exclusive financial responsibility for, and immediately announce its intention to replace, the Champlain Bridge.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important moment for me and I appreciate your taking the time to read the whole motion en français.
It is with great enthusiasm that I present this motion on infrastructure, but let me first set the stage. Infrastructure has been part of our history. The railroad that goes from coast to coast is part of our history and our heritage. It has also been the backbone of our communities and our economy.
Modern Canada has built infrastructure keeping in mind the needs of the changing demographics and the needs for a modern economy. We have built highways. When our rivers were becoming polluted, we rose to the challenge and built water treatment facilities. We have built housing for different communities' needs. We have built schools and community centres. All of that infrastructure is making our communities vibrant and prosperous. It enhances the quality of life of many Canadians. From coast to coast to coast, infrastructure of all kinds helps our communities prosper.
Over the years, the Government of Canada in partnership with the provinces and municipalities has invested to make sure that we have good infrastructure that responds to the needs of different communities.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s we saw the building of much of our modern infrastructure which we continue to use.
I am someone who really likes to go biking. For several years, I have lived in Montreal and enjoyed biking. I have been noticing for a number of years that a lot of infrastructure is aging and is in a bad state. The current level of investment in our aging infrastructure network does not seem to be keeping pace with demand. It is certainly not meeting the demand in terms of highway infrastructure and, more specifically, bridges and overpasses, are being more heavily travelled.
I present this motion thinking of the future, thinking also that we have to change our way of building infrastructure. We must think of the challenges of the 21st century, the challenges presented by our environment and by our different commitments to communities to make sure that we have not only buildings, but also roads that respond to the needs of the community. We have to think also of the way we plan infrastructure to make sure that we have infrastructure that responds to and integrates itself in living environments.
Infrastructure is the foundation that supports our vibrant, prosperous and sustainable communities. Building and maintaining infrastructure play a key role in creating and maintaining jobs. According to a professor from the École des hautes études commerciales in Montreal, infrastructure is a strategic asset that contributes to the Canadian economy.
And yet our infrastructure is collapsing and crumbling. We see this is happening. On September 30, 2006, a section of the Concorde overpass collapsed, taking the lives of five innocent victims and affecting their families and friends. This summer, part of the tunnel above the Ville-Marie highway in Montreal collapsed. Fortunately, there were no victims. In Toronto, a cement block from the Kipling bridge came crashing down on the Gardiner Expressway, in the middle of rush hour. These and many other incidents remind us that the public infrastructure of our cities is in a critical state. And I am not even talking about the infrastructure of our smaller Canadian communities.
According to a Léger Marketing poll conducted in August, nine out of ten people responded that they were worried about using Montreal's highways. Approximately one out of every five drivers avoids certain highways because they do not trust the highway infrastructure.
And what should one make of the lack of drinking water infrastructure in some communities when in 2010, 1,200 boil water warnings were issued in Canada?
Our aging infrastructure will cost us a lot if the Canadian Federation of Municipalities is to be believed. It will cost $123 billion to maintain and restore our decaying highways, bridges, sewers and water treatment systems, not to mention other types of infrastructure. On top of that, an additional $115 billion will be needed to build the infrastructure of tomorrow.
And yet what are we seeing? Over the next three years, a significant portion of the federal infrastructure funding programs will expire. Canadians, however, who use the bridges and overpasses every morning to get to work know all too well that the revitalization work on our infrastructure is just beginning. The tens of thousands of people who drive over the Champlain Bridge every day can attest to that. And just as the federal government's major investments in infrastructure are due to expire—investments that were also supposed to kickstart an economic recovery—another recession is looming in Canada.
Instead of demonstrating foresight and ensuring that the economy is running smoothly, this government is irresponsibly rushing to impose fiscal restraint on Canada. The government is making its departments prepare scenarios for budget cuts of up to 10%. Will cuts be made to federal assistance for infrastructure? Will these budget cuts result in the loss of skilled workers at the Department of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities?
It is in this context that my motion asks the government to recognize that the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure plays a vital role in the creation and protection of jobs, and that infrastructure is a strategic asset that supports vibrant, prosperous and sustainable communities. We are also asking the government to take all necessary action to counter the crisis of crumbling infrastructure and the very real risks it poses to the economy, security and the quality of life of Canadians.
I truly hope that the federal government will be an active partner and work with our provincial, municipal and community partners throughout the country.
I am asking the government to develop a legislative framework, with clear targets, to provide sustainable, predictable and long-term infrastructure funding agreements with provinces, territories, municipalities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
In politics, we are not really used to taking the long view. We often only think as far as the next election. This legislative framework, in co-operation with the provinces and communities, would depoliticize infrastructure, an expression that I borrowed from the magazine Les Affaires. Instead of reacting, we should undertake long-term planning so that infrastructure projects will serve all communities that sorely need them.
The infrastructure deficit has built up over the span of 40 years. Agreements will have to be negotiated with our partners to make up for long-standing investment deficits and also to build the roads, bridges, sewers, treatment plants and other infrastructure that will ensure the prosperity, vitality and health of our children's communities and those of generations to come. Clearly, agreements on federal funding for infrastructure will have to extend beyond 2014, when 40% of federal investments will cease.
My motion also calls on the government to show vision and to negotiate building codes with our partners that will result in sustainable infrastructure. Infrastructure renewal could result in a proactive policy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by including, for example, plans for comfortable, affordable, reliable, non-polluting public transit. I am talking about infrastructure that promotes water and energy conservation. These green technologies could become an economic driver and be exported.
This infrastructure has to be funded with ever-smaller budgets. We know that gas tax revenues are going to go down by nearly 60% because of demographic changes and inflation over the next 20 years. I urge the government to consider indexing the gas tax to the changes in our population and increasing the gas tax transfer by one cent a litre in order to secure stable infrastructure funding for the long term. We have to consider alternative funding mechanisms to ensure that the municipalities, small or large, have the long-term capacity to build and maintain public infrastructure.
This motion was put on the order paper before the announcement about replacing the Champlain Bridge. I want to thank the government for answering my call. I would like to reiterate that the Champlain Bridge sees 60 million crossings and facilitates $20 billion in international trade a year. What is the government's plan for public transit infrastructure? How will this be coordinated with the transit in the greater metropolitan area? This is why we need a national public transit strategy, as proposed by the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina?
The reason I have been speaking about the Champlain Bridge and infrastructure in Quebec is because I represent the people of LaSalle—Émard, a riding in the Montreal area, and my constituents, like many Montrealers, are suffering the consequences of the deterioration of our infrastructure. But I realize that public infrastructure is deteriorating all over Canada.
I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the motion I moved on behalf of the people of LaSalle—Émard and all Canadians. It is time to get to work.
Together, let us build the future.