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House of Commons Hansard #214 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.

Topics

Transparency of Payments Made by Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations to Foreign Governments ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-474, An Act respecting the promotion of financial transparency, improved accountability and long-term economic sustainability through the public reporting of payments made by mining, oil and gas corporations to foreign governments.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for reading out the very extended name of that bill. We are calling it, for want of a better term, the sunshine bill, because it is intended to shine a light on the whole business of murky payments that go on in some transactions with respect to the obtaining and retaining of mining licences.

The bill needs to be situated in a worldwide effort to deal with some of these more odious practices that mining companies find themselves in. In particular, the U.S. has passed legislation called the Cardin-Lugar amendment, which is based upon the Dodd-Frank bill. It essentially says that these payments need to be disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and if they are not disclosed, then that company would be delisted from U.S. stock exchanges.

The U.K., the EU, Australia and others are trying to engage in this international effort, so the bill is to be situated in that entire international effort to close these loopholes and to deal with these kinds of practices.

I look forward to the debate and I look forward to support from my colleagues.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents ActRoutine Proceedings

February 26th, 2013 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-475, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (order-making power).

Mr. Speaker, over the past several years Canadians have witnessed what the Conservative privacy agenda has to offer: online snooping bills and inaction on data breaches.

Today I am presenting the NDP's vision of personal information protection. This bill will encourage compliance with Canadian laws and ensure that individuals are notified when their information has been compromised.

In our increasingly digital world, Canadians can no longer wait for the government to modernize our outdated privacy laws. Inaction means greater risk to the security of the personal information of millions of children, seniors and all other Canadians online.

Canadians and Quebeckers should feel perfectly safe using new digital technology. We can encourage Internet users to be fully involved in the digital economy by giving them the confidence to put personal information online.

My bill proposes positive and balanced privacy protections that are needed in the digital age.

I hope that all of the members in the House will vote in favour of this much-needed legislation so that the privacy of their constituents, their children and their families will be well protected.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved:

That this House call on the government to commit in Budget 2013 to a long-term, predictable and accountable federal infrastructure plan in partnership with other levels of government, as recommended by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in order to: (a) improve Canada's lagging productivity; (b) shorten commute times; and (c) fix Canada's crumbling infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, across the country, getting to work on time is becoming a luxury. Congestion and overcrowded public transit make it harder and harder to get to work on time. From coast to coast, frustrated commuters tell the same stories.

In Toronto, angry office workers stand in the cold while jam-packed street cars rush by. Even if they get on, they are packed in like sardines. In Vancouver suburbs, impatient mothers who have to drop off their kids at school wait forever for a bus to arrive. In Montreal, frustrated college students are late for their classes and jobs because of delays and breakdowns in the aging Metro system.

The average commute time in the Toronto area has reached 82 minutes per day, which is far worse than New York City and Los Angeles, and Vancouver and Montreal are not doing much better. Eighty-two minutes is more than most parents get to spend with their kids playing and reading. Eighty-two minutes means a missed dinner with a partner for hard-working couples. Eighty-two minutes means less time to study and prepare for class for college students.

Traffic gridlock is costing our economy $10 billion a year, with $6 billion in the greater Toronto area alone. At $10 billion, it is more than the GDP of all three territories and P.E.I. combined. In fact, it is bigger than the budget for six provinces. It is huge. This is $10 billion that we lose every year because of gridlock and traffic jams.

For companies, it means less productivity and less competitiveness against their American counterparts. Ultimately, it means fewer jobs; 26,000 fewer jobs in the GTA alone. For parents, it means less time to see their kids grow up. For all levels of government, it means less tax revenue. Therefore, gridlock is a problem we can no longer afford.

Canada's infrastructure problems go beyond the lack of public transit and rising commute times. One out of five roads is in poor or very poor condition. That means potholes and car-sized sinkholes in Ottawa. It means damaged car suspensions. Overpasses and bridges in Montreal and Toronto are becoming unsafe. The Gardiner Expressway has rained concrete six or seven times this year alone on the traffic and pedestrians below.

There are also 200 communities struggling with backwater. The water looks cloudy or tastes and smells funny. In half of these communities, one cannot drink the water without boiling it first or one will get sick. How sad is this, given that clean water is a human right in a country that has the world's largest freshwater supply?

We have unsafe water systems and problems with the roads and bridges that we can no longer afford, and these are not isolated cases. Communities from coast to coast to coast are struggling with lack of transit, potholed roads and unsafe drinking water. They are calling for federal help. They want a long-term federal plan for infrastructure, and they are not alone. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, representing over 2,000 municipal leaders, is calling for a long-term infrastructure plan to be included in the 2013 federal budget, and so is the Canada West Foundation, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, Engineers Canada, and the Canadian Construction Association.

From coast to coast to coast, union groups, organizations and municipal leaders are all calling for the same thing, which is a long-term, predictable and accountable infrastructure plan.

Why is it that the Minister of Transport does not want to listen to mayors and city councillors? Why are commuters and working families ignored by the Conservatives? Why does the minister not want to ride the Toronto subway with me at rush hour so that he can experience the crowded trains, see the commuters left behind on the platform and experience their frustration and anger over lost time?

It is curious that even before today's debate, the minister said last night that he would vote against my motion. He said that before he even listened to the motion. He said no without any debate. He said no without listening to Canadians. He said no without listening to parliamentarians. Frankly, that is contempt for the House of Commons.

Maybe I can guess the reason. Perhaps it is because Conservatives prefer to provide on-and-off funding, which frustrates cities that need predictable funding. Perhaps it is because the Conservatives want a photo op every few days, rather than a 20-year plan that would allow cities to make long-term plans. Maybe it is because they want to hand out gigantic cheques to their insider friends as a reward. Maybe it is because the Conservatives are afraid that if we have a fair distribution that uses objective criteria for funding and for measuring success, they will not be able to make decisions based on partisan considerations. That could be the reason.

The building Canada fund has been too unpredictable and too beholden to partisan interests to really help municipalities. Municipalities now have an infrastructure deficit of $171 billion. That is a huge amount of money on the shoulders of people who pay property taxes. Someone has to pay; the question is who. The people who are paying are those who pay property taxes, those on fixed income, seniors, those who really cannot afford much more. These are the ones who are shouldering this huge deficit of $171 billion. That is why municipalities want an accountable and predictable long-term funding plan. They are tired of a grant system that is used like a lottery. They want a merit-based, predictable transfer.

All the federal government has to do is listen to cities and communities across Canada that have been calling for the same thing for years. They want a federal plan with secure supports for at least 20 years, not a two-year funding cycle. That is how long it takes to develop and build and maintain a long-term infrastructure program, whether it is transit, roads or drinking water.

Our cities need funding that is predictable. Our cities need funding that is allocated in a non-partisan way, like the existing gas tax, on a per capita basis. Our cities need a plan whereby funding grows with non-political measures, such as the economy, population and ridership growth forecasts. Our cities need a plan that has clear criteria and clear targets, targets like cutting specific commute times. We know that what gets measured gets managed, gets results and gets built. Our cities need a plan based on partnership among jurisdictions so that funding can reach provincial and municipal levels of government and the private sector. Our cities and companies need a plan that encourages innovation, efficiency and sustainability so that we can make our transit system greener and unleash Canada's creative potential.

We hope that members of Parliament across the way will stand up for a better quality of life, stand up for a stronger economy and support a long-term federal infrastructure plan so that we can get Canada moving again.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to thank the member for Trinity—Spadina for her incredible leadership in this area.

Over the past few months, we have met with dozens of municipal representatives across Canada, and not a single one was opposed to the motion moved by my colleague this morning. It is unanimous. There is something much larger than a consensus on this issue. It would appear that there are anywhere from 150 to 200 people who are prepared to vote against this motion, namely the Conservatives on the other side.

Am I right? Did my colleague find even one organization that has reservations about this motion, or have I understood correctly and people are unanimous in their support? Is there really a consensus about what needs to happen with Canada's infrastructure?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. No, there is not one organization or municipality, from coast to coast to coast, and no level of government, that has said that it prefers a grant lottery system. They want long-term, predictable funding. They want a transfer that would help cut commute times. They need to know that three, five, or even ten years down the road, when they have started building one subway, that other subway stations will also be built.

I will give Toronto as an example of what has happened. It dug a hole on Eglinton Avenue to build a subway station. It ran out of money, so it filled up the hole, wasting millions of dollars. Now it thinks that maybe it will have some money, and it is digging the hole again. I am not kidding. It is true. Come and watch it happening on Eglinton Avenue in Toronto. Millions of dollars are being wasted. At least 15 years have been wasted. In the meantime, the commuters are waiting and waiting and are being packed in like sardines.

That is not happening just in big cities. It is also happening in small and rural municipalities. For example, Ontario rural municipalities are meeting today and tomorrow, and they met yesterday. They are talking about infrastructure, roads and drinking water. Every organization, whether a business organization, chamber of commerce, board of trade, foundation, construction company or Engineers Canada has said the same thing. They want a long-term, predictable and accountable infrastructure plan from the federal government.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we recognize that there is a huge infrastructure deficit from coast to coast to coast. Municipalities have a huge demand. Whether it is repairing roads or rapid transit, it is absolutely critical that these municipalities throughout the country have the resources to get some of the work done. The federal government has a great deal more access to a larger pool of revenue that ultimately could assist in facilitating this infrastructure.

My question is in regard to how important it is for the Government of Canada to recognize that whether it likes it or not, it has a role to play in building our country through our infrastructure, especially nowadays, when there is a lot of concern about the infrastructure deficit and how the economy itself is performing.

The government could do two things. One would be to improve the economic climate. The other would be to build needed infrastructure.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is really only one taxpayer. For every dollar this person pays in taxes, 8¢ goes to the municipality. Yet the municipality has to take care of 60%, or six out of 10, infrastructure projects across Canada. They just cannot do it.

For the same taxpayer, from the same dollar, 45¢, almost half of his money, goes to the federal government. We cannot have the federal government walking away and saying that it is not its responsibility. The federal government collects the taxes. The least it could do is transfer a portion of it back to the municipalities so that they can take care of the 60% of the infrastructure that is crumbling right now. It needs $171 billion. That is the deficit in infrastructure managed by municipalities.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged to rise here this morning to speak to this motion, since it directly affects everyone in my riding, all Quebeckers and all Canadians. Indeed, infrastructure has a direct impact on our daily lives, for better or for worse—and for the past few years, it has been for worse.

More and more studies and reports have been done across Canada over the years, and their findings are consistent. Analysts have reached the same conclusions: it is time to increase our investment in infrastructure and establish programs that allow municipalities to plan their investment programs over the long term.

That is precisely what today's NDP motion is calling for, and as my colleague, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, explained so well, this motion contains three key requests: to improve Canada's lagging productivity, shorten commute times and fix Canada's infrastructure, whose condition ranges from good to mediocre.

The beautiful thing about these three requests is that working on our infrastructure will allow improvements in all three areas at once.

As we can see, these requests are very specific. They raise economic concerns, and at the same time, highlight issues that affect the daily lives of millions of Canadians, such as commute times.

Finally, the funding of our municipal infrastructure affects each and every one us. It affects the quality of the water that we drink and our access to and use of airports and energy facilities.

Canadians expect the Conservative government to take major positive action in terms of their infrastructure. I say “their infrastructure” because the condition of roads, water systems and bridges and the smooth flow of public transit are issues that affect and concern all Canadians. It is the government's responsibility to quickly meet their expectations. Canadians know that it is time to make major, long-term investments in things that make this country run smoothly.

What can the federal government do, or rather, what is the Conservative government not doing that it should be doing?

A recent Le Devoir headline aptly stated that Canada's infrastructure deficit continues to grow. What does that mean in practical terms?

There is no question that the federal government's contribution to infrastructure is becoming increasingly meagre. Insufficient funding in this area is nothing new, but nothing is currently being done to catch up to other countries. If nothing is done, the bill will just continue to grow as our bridges, roads and water systems age and crumble. Unfortunately, that is what is happening.

In 1980, the value of public infrastructure was 30% of GDP. It is now down to 22% of GDP. This means that our infrastructure is aging, that it is not withstanding the test of time and that its value is dropping while the country's population and needs are increasing. A modern, competitive country cannot let its infrastructure crumble.

To maintain an acceptable level, close to 3% of GDP must be invested annually. The government must take action immediately.

The federal government has reduced its share of investment contributions, which now falls below 15%. It is not because infrastructure costs less than it used to—quite the contrary. That is clear.

The federal government is sticking municipalities with the bill. Municipalities are responsible for 52% of infrastructure, while the provinces are responsible for about 35%. The issue is not just the federal government's transfer of responsibility or debt to the municipal level; the problem is much more complex than that. The municipalities simply do not have the means or tax leverage to take on this enormous responsibility alone. Without the federal government's commitment, our infrastructure will not be modernized and very few municipalities will have the means to invest in the Canada of tomorrow.

The federal government has spent many, many months consulting over 200 municipal, provincial and territorial representatives. For several months now, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has been talking about a sustainable plan. In his speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in November 2012, the minister said:

We can all agree that Canada needs a sustainable public infrastructure investment plan to replace the Building Canada Plan in 2014…A plan that will work well into the future.

For lack of a cabinet shuffle the same minister will be voting against the motion that my colleague moved this morning. I was pleased when I heard the minister's statement, but now I would like to see him take action. A long-term plan is exactly what municipalities and the NDP have been asking for, but the minister has never wanted to specify what he means by “long-term”. It seems that three, four or five years could be considered the long term. Or it could be 10 or 15 years. No one knows.

The NDP's position is clear: we believe that a 20-year plan would provide municipalities with the means to truly plan out their investments and would ensure that Canadians and future generations get the basic services needed by communities. If to govern is to plan—to the best of my knowledge, Clemenceau said that—then we should start planning today, assuming the government really does want to govern on behalf of all Canadians.

It is always easy to cut infrastructure spending in order to balance the budget more quickly. However, economic studies prove that such cuts and temporary underfunding have a dramatic impact on subsequent generations. Our children will have to pay for the Conservatives' short-term vision. We are hanging an environmental millstone around the necks of future generations, which will have a hard time overcoming the problems they inherit from us. The Conservatives are about to do the same thing with the economy.

Studies clearly show that government programs for municipal infrastructure have helped significantly slow deficit growth since 2008. These programs are effective. We must keep them going over a longer period. The federal government must commit to bringing in predictable, sustainable long-term funding.

When the government provides only ad hoc funding, long-term projects—such as public transportation—are not eligible for funding. Periodic reviews are needed to ensure that targets are met and to adjust funding. In Quebec, the municipalities already assume the vast majority of the financial responsibility for municipal infrastructure spending without any financial return. The federal government recovers nearly 30% of its investments in financial returns, which shows what a big, impressive economic driver this government can be. It is clear that the federal government must play an active role and commit to making the existing programs permanent.

For five years the NDP has been calling for a permanent infrastructure program to take care of this problem instead of dumping it on local governments.

Since I am quickly running out of time, I will conclude by saying that the federal government must act immediately. Since the building Canada fund expires in 2014 and the money has all been spent already, Canadian municipalities need to know now what to expect so that they can plan carefully and efficiently. Since every $1 billion invested in infrastructure helps create 11,000 jobs, job growth and economic productivity are partially tied to funding from the federal government. Canada cannot afford to ignore this opportunity for growth.

The NDP has heard from representatives of the UMQ, the FQM, the FCM, chambers of commerce, the Toronto Board of Trade, the Canadian Urban Transit Association and Engineers Canada, to name a few, and they all agree that now is the time to play catch-up with upgrading our infrastructure maintenance.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to emphasize the importance of the infrastructure dollars. For municipalities to make long-term plans, they need to have a sense of how much money they can anticipate.

Let us take a look at a municipality, and I will use Winnipeg as an example, that will often have five-year capital type projects. When making plans for those projects, it has to take into consideration what it can anticipate coming from different levels of government.

That is one of the reasons we believe it is important that there be a tangible dollar figure that would allow municipal governments to plan their infrastructures and the type of programs they would like to, ultimately, develop or put into place—this whole concept of multi-year budgeting, if we can put it that way.

I wonder if the member would comment as to the benefits of that multi-year planning or budgets that would allow municipalities from across Canada to know they can count on this kind of money going forward, so that they would be able to plan in the long run for these larger, more expensive capital infrastructure programs.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question. My response is simple: it allows them to make smart choices.

Once a stable, long-term, ongoing infrastructure spending program is put in place, then decisions can be made in light of the budget envelope. If I have a specific funding envelope to spread over the next 20 years, I could implement more costly projects, for example.

On the other hand, managing infrastructure improvements on a short-term basis implies that I must choose projects based on the budget envelope allocated for one, two or three years.

I may not commit and I may not lock my community in to more costly projects, even though they are just as necessary. However, if I had the means to look ahead, I could make that commitment.

The government needs to change one key element in its approach. It needs to think of infrastructure improvements as an investment, not as an expenditure. Once the issue is seen in that light, everything changes, I swear.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members for Trois-Rivières and Trinity—Spadina.

This is a critical motion for Canada. I am extremely surprised to hear the members opposite, the government, say that they will vote against it, even though this issue plagues all of our municipalities.

Over the past three weeks, two major streets—La Vérendrye Boulevard and Gatineau Avenue—in my riding of Gatineau, were completely closed to traffic. There were major problems and potholes as big as craters. The needs are obvious, and Gatineau is no different from other Canadian municipalities. For more than 10 years, I have heard the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies and other groups repeat the same thing over and over. They are telling us to take action because major infrastructure problems will create bigger issues and will cost Canadians.

I want to ask the member for Trois-Rivières why the Conservatives are closing the door on Canadian municipalities. I do not understand.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, at this point, we know that the minister will vote against the motion. Perhaps the rest of his party will not, and that would be amusing.

They will vote against the motion out of pure partisanship. Having talked with the minister many times, I would say that, when it comes right down to it, he has no choice but to agree with the motion.

For once, could we forget about the political games and work together to serve Canadians?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Essex. I thank the member across the way for the opportunity to discuss this important issue and to put on the record many of the things that the government has already done on behalf of Canadians.

It is easy to say that all governments in Canada recognize the link between infrastructure investments and a strong economy. We have made investments for the short term through the economic action plan, which were timely. These infrastructure investments were made at a time when the Canadian economy needed it the most.

We have made investments through our longer term programs, like the building Canada plan, a plan that has seen government invest in public infrastructure at unprecedented levels. These investments are helping to support productivity and innovation, facilitate trade activities and promote local and regional development.

We are supporting and protecting our trade routes. We are making investments in our highways and roads to help goods and people move freely and efficiently.

Canada is a nation of exports. We need an integrated and efficient transportation system to ensure that our economy remains strong. We are investing in solutions that ensure seamless connections between all forms of transportation, including rail and shipping facilities. Our transportation system is not exclusively for business use. Connecting smaller communities to larger hubs helps stimulate local economies and provide citizens with improved access to health services, jobs, education and training.

While we do that, we continue to protect our environment through investments in waste water treatment, energy district systems and solid waste management, to name a few, all with the idea of helping reduce Canada's footprint on the environment.

We will make it a greener infrastructure for our cities, more livable, and contribute to improving the health of our ecosystems.

To support our communities and our economy, we are making investments in efficient public transportation systems. These improved systems help move commuters to and from work, home and play, and help our cities attract and retain businesses and talented people.

Since 2006, our government has made unprecedented investments in Canada's infrastructure. In 2007, we launched the seven-year $33 billion building Canada plan, which provided long-term support for infrastructure priorities across the country. The building Canada plan supports projects that contribute to a stronger economy, cleaner air and water, safer roads, shorter commutes and stronger communities.

This includes large-scale projects, such as the Summerside wind farm in Prince Edward Island, the Mackenzie Valley winter road in the Northwest Territories, right down to projects in small communities, such as renovations to the Austin community centre in Manitoba or the upgrades to the well house in Bath, New Brunswick.

The NDP, with its doctrine approach, was systematically opposed to any help from our government to those communities.

Included under the building Canada plan is the gas tax fund, which provides predictable, long-term funding for Canadian municipalities to help them build and revitalize public infrastructure. I know this is one of the most important decisions this government has made, and I hear that continuously from the communities I represent. Making it a permanent fixture allows for predictability and enables them to work into the future.

The gas tax fund is stable and reliable, and municipalities can pool, bank or borrow against the fund for long-term infrastructure priorities. I do know that the 3,600 municipalities have benefited from the financial support and flexibility the program offers.

An example is the community of Brackley, a rural farming community north of Charlottetown, which has used gas tax funds to build a multi-use trail along Route 15. This trail promotes physical activity and provides walkers, runners, cyclists and rollerbladers with a safe place to enjoy more active forms of transportation.

In times of crisis, when the need was immediate, we showed we were able to act quickly and deliver on our promises. In 2009, the world was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and Canadians were facing the most severe economic challenge in a generation.

In response, we launched the economic action plan. In my opinion, the plan was an unqualified success that is still generating jobs, stimulating the economy and providing benefits to Canadians this day. We have done that, and opposition members on the other side voted against it. The plan accelerated existing infrastructure funding and delivered $14.5 billion in new funding for public infrastructure through programs such as the infrastructure stimulus fund. The program provided funding in the short term, when it was needed most, for projects that were shovel-ready and could begin construction immediately.

After listing all those investments made by our government, I admit I am confused with the New Democrats' position. If infrastructure is important for them, how is it that they have voted against every single one of our attempts to support the provinces, territories and municipalities with their infrastructure priorities? I cannot explain it. How could they vote against every attempt to support these communities?

I will refresh the opposition members' memory. In 2007, the New Democrats voted against a $33 billion building Canada fund. In 2009, they voted against thousands of economic action plan infrastructure programs that went all across Canada. In 2011, the New Democrats voted against legislation making the gas tax fund transfer permanent, not once but twice. If infrastructure was important to the New Democrats, they should have woken up and supported the government's position. Never in the history of Canada has the federal government done so much in support of infrastructure.

As members can see, the Government of Canada is concerned about this country's public infrastructure and has done more than any federal government in recent history to advance and improve the infrastructure programming for all of Canada. At the same time, we remain sensitive to the ongoing deficit and the need to balance the budget. As we work with our partners to shape the future of infrastructure and infrastructure funding in Canada, we will be ever conscious of the needs of the taxpayers, the economy and the environment.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, every time a car driver pays for gasoline, 10¢ for each litre that he or she purchases goes to the federal government. After the Federation of Canadian Municipalities pitched, pushed and lobbied for many years—at one time under the leadership of its former president, the late Jack Layton—finally the Liberal government and then the Conservative government agreed to send some of the gas tax back to municipalities that manage the roads and pay for streetcars, buses and subways. However, that is only 5¢ per litre.

What is the federal government doing with the other 5¢ per litre that it takes from car drivers every time they pump gas? The extra 5¢ goes to a general revenue, rather than coming back to fix the roads or to help with the transit. What does the government do with this money? Is it to pay for senators' trips? Is it to pay for some kind of expense account? I do not know. The taxpayers deserve to know what happens to the other 5¢ of gas tax they pay each time they pump gasoline.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, where I live we pump our own gas. It is just something we have become accustomed to doing.

Where does the gas tax money go? As the member has correctly stated, half of it goes to the municipalities. We reached out and we listened to them, and it is permanent. That is something they said to us and it is actually part of the statement that has been made here earlier this morning. Municipalities and provinces want stability. They want to know, going forward, what they can count on year after year. We proposed that we make it, through legislation, a law that they receive it, and regrettably the members opposite voted against it.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I talked about the infrastructure deficit across Canada. I want to focus attention on our roads and highways, particularly municipal roads. Driving through Winnipeg, as an example, one finds an enormous number of potholes. There is a huge demand for improving the quality of our streets. I do not think Winnipeg is unique. There is the same need across Canada.

Would the member acknowledge that cities and municipalities do not have the financial capability to deal with the huge infrastructure deficit? In terms of the economic climate, is there not a greater need for Ottawa to play a stronger leadership role in building our infrastructure?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, if we ask any community or any municipality across Canada, they would suggest that they need more investment in infrastructure. I think that is only natural. We all have needs and desires. Many communities have to make decisions based on the revenues they can generate within their own systems. We continue to meet, negotiate and listen to our counterparts at the provincial and municipal levels. I am assured that we will continue to do that to do what is in the best interests of Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

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.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member going through a long list of investments and initiatives undertaken by this government. Since taking office in 2006, we have prioritized infrastructure. We have certainly brought funding for municipalities to record levels. We have brought the transfers to the provinces to record levels. We have also done something else that is very important.

The member represents Ontario. I do not think any member in the House has done more to further the infrastructure interests of his region than this member in his fight for the new international crossing between Windsor and Detroit. Is the member aware that despite Ontario being 38% of the population and producing roughly 41% of the GDP, it was receiving only 22% of the federal infrastructure investment dollars under the former Liberal government, whereas today, it receives fair per capita transfers right across this country? Does he agree with that?

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been around since 2004. I started out in opposition to the Paul Martin government at the time.

I would characterize infrastructure funding as not only unfair in its distribution, but it was ad hoc in terms of the lack of an overall strategic direction. We changed that in 2007, particularly when we launched the Building Canada plan with many measures under that $33 billion umbrella, in a strategic coordinated approach to improve infrastructure and deal specifically with what was a significant infrastructure debt at the time.

We have made significant progress, working with our provincial and municipal partners in that direction. We are continuing that with the community infrastructure improvement fund and many other funds. I suspect we will continue to work in good partnership with all of our partners in a fair way that will help to meet the infrastructure needs in their communities.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Conservative colleague from Essex, and I sometimes have the impression—I am surprised to say it—that he is wearing rose-coloured glasses.

He can cherry-pick the success stories about municipal infrastructure all he wants, but the reality is that most municipalities are at the end of their rope. The most recent assessment pegs the infrastructure deficit at $171 billion.

Can the member finally tell us if the government will commit to holding real dialogue with municipalities and consulting them? I believe that is difficult for the Conservatives.

Opposition Motion—Federal Infrastructure PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I reject that. This government continually consults with our municipal and provincial partners, whether it is on infrastructure or any other issue. I find it offensive from the member opposite and his party.

Quite frankly, the motion today is just a little too late when we look at the real record on infrastructure. On border funding for a new crossing, the NDP voted against it when we brought it forward in 2006 and 2007. When we set aside $400 million for the new Windsor-Essex parkway, now renamed the Right Honourable Herb Gray parkway, to extend the 401 to a new border crossing, who voted against it? The NDP. That member was not elected at the time so I will not blame him personally, but his party voted against it. In every single way, we are making real tangible progress.

I cannot account for the fact that the Liberals left such a huge debt with respect to infrastructure and took such a scattered approach, but this government has put real money on the table, in a real plan with our partners. We are making tangible results, creating jobs from coast to coast and improving the quality of life in our communities. I wish the member opposite and his party would get on board.