Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to discuss our government's record investment in infrastructure to benefit our country, literally from sea to sea, from the northern coast all the way down to our southern coast.
Since 2006, our government has made record levels of investments in infrastructure through initiatives such as the $33 billion building Canada plan and infrastructure investments made under Canada's economic action plan.
On the one hand, the seven-year building Canada plan is providing long-term funding for small and large-scale projects across the country. Just this past Friday, I was in Lakeshore making an announcement that the federal government will be committing up to $17.3 million from the building Canada fund, a major infrastructure component, for a new multi-use recreation facility in that community.
On the other hand, Canada's economic action plan was designed to provide targeted, timely, temporary funding during the recession for shovel-ready construction projects in the short term.
In Windsor—Essex, for example, we had the highest per capita infrastructure stimulus in the country to combat the highest unemployment in Canada, leading to projects such as investments in the new Centre for Engineering Innovation at the University of Windsor, the new MediaPlex and a Centre for Applied Health Sciences at St. Clair College, new modernizations and improvements at Your Quick Gateway, YQG, our airport, and a new MURF in Amherstburg. These are projects that were needed in that short-term period that are making a difference in the long term.
More than 50% of the build Canada plan, some $17.6 billion, goes to municipalities to fund their priorities through the gas tax fund and through the 100% GST rebate. Through these two initiatives, every municipality in the country is receiving stable and predictable funding.
I would like to remind my colleagues opposite, though they may want to forget, that the NDP voted against this support for Canadian municipalities. By way of fact, the gas tax fund doubled on April 1, 2009, from $1 billion to $2 billion per year. The NDP was opposed to that.
On December 15, 2011, Bill C-13, which was entitled Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act, received royal assent. This delivered on our government's budget 2011 commitment to legislate the gas tax fund permanently at $2 billion a year. Municipalities can count on this stable funding for their infrastructure needs now and in the future. However, they cannot count on the NDP, which voted against this on every single occasion.
To date, more than 3,600 municipalities across Canada have benefited from the financial support and the flexibility the gas tax fund program offers. Municipalities can choose to pool their funds and bank or borrow against them, meaning that municipalities can spend their funding when they choose to do so. They do not have to spend it as soon as it comes in. They can save their funds for a few select larger projects or can use them for many smaller ones. As a result of this flexibility, in the period from 2005 to 2011 municipalities earned over $88 million in interest, which they could then use for additional local infrastructure renewal.
Municipalities can choose to invest all or part of their funding allocations in program categories such as drinking water and waste water systems, solid waste management, community energy systems, public transit, local roads or even capacity building. Since its inception, municipalities across Canada have reported that the gas tax fund has helped them fund over 13,000 individual projects. There is a great interactive map on the Association of Municipalities of Ontario website that shows where all these projects are across Essex County and Ontario, for example.
With each of these infrastructure projects come important jobs and results that improve quality of life in our communities. I remind members that the NDP voted to turn down support for these 13,000 projects. I think that bears some shame.
If we look at Canada's six largest cities, approximately 80% of the gas tax fund allocation is invested in public transit. Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton devote 100% of their gas tax fund monies to public transit.
Toronto has used its gas tax funding to purchase 204 new streetcars to replace aging light rail vehicles. The City of Ottawa has used its gas tax funds to renew and modify its transit bus fleets. Other regions are also using their gas tax fund allocations to make their public transit services more accessible for their ridership. Peel region, with its TransHelp accessible transportation service, is an example. Some 2,000 new customers and an 8% to 10% annual increase in trip capacity resulted from that investment, with a record 400,000-plus trips reported in 2010.
Of course, public transit is not the only focus of the gas tax fund for Canadian communities. The next largest investment priority for Canadian municipalities is local roads and bridges, followed by water and then waste water. For example, if we look eastward to New Brunswick, the City of Bathurst upgraded its water and sanitary systems using gas tax funds. As a result of these upgrades, the process at the waste water treatment plant has been improved to meet provincial effluent quality standards, and further efficiencies are expected to improve the quality of drinking water.
If we look north, and having a young Inuit daughter I like to look northward, their communities benefit from the gas tax funds as well. In the north, it is a little different. Northern communities receive a base funding amount instead of an allocation based on population. That just means that less populated jurisdictions receive sufficient funds to build and revitalize their local infrastructure.
The Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut will each have received $97.5 million for community infrastructure from the gas tax fund between 2005 to 2014. The City of Iqaluit was able to use gas tax funds to replace its water pipe system, which has ensured a dependable supply of safe drinking water for residents for years to come.
Gas tax funds are also used to support capacity-building initiatives in northern communities, including long-term community planning. In remote locations, with sparse populations and a difficult northern climate, local infrastructure planning is especially complex and challenging. When combined with limited access to planning resources and expertise, funding for capacity building and planning becomes even more important.
The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation community used gas tax funds to establish sustainability goals and to develop a community planning program. Through this exercise, it was able to complete two key community infrastructure planning projects that focused on land development and community housing needs. It was able to keep citizens informed through a newsletter and provided opportunity for input. As a result, its integrated community sustainability plan was able to include new areas of focus, covering everything from public transit and walking trails to drinking water, sewage, green energy projects and other community infrastructure needs.
We have given this flexible funding to municipalities in all corners of the country, despite the NDP's systematic opposition.
I would like to point out that closer to home, in the far south of Canada, the gas tax fund continues to modernize important local infrastructure, whether it is reconstruction of the Canard River overpass, repaving on Gesto Road, road reconstruction in the heart of Kingsville or county roads across Lakeshore.
The gas tax fund will continue to deliver results for local infrastructure priorities for years to come. We look forward to seeing the benefits in our communities. I am pleased to note that a $2 billion per year gas tax fund is one of our government's largest, and now permanent, programs dedicated to infrastructure funding for our country. From British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, from the Yukon and Nunavut to Essex County, Ontario, the gas tax fund plays an important role in supporting infrastructure renewal and in creating jobs. Communities, large and small alike, benefit and can continue to rely on this stable, predictable funding.