Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address the NDP motion today. I believe that it is a motion worthy of support. As the previous speaker representing the Liberal Party has indicated, we will be voting in favour of the motion.
Liberal prime ministers, such as Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien, emphasized the importance of infrastructure. If we look back to the 1970s, we will see that a lot of seed money and ideas led to many successful projects in Winnipeg, for example. It takes a government that has the interest and strong leadership from ministers of the Crown who believe in infrastructure and want to be engaged with our municipalities and cities.
Look at some of the things the Liberals did in the past. I think of individuals such as Lloyd Axworthy, who was a champion who fought for infrastructure dollars and looked at ways the federal government could support municipalities, particularly for development in the city of Winnipeg. The Forks project is an example. Today it is Manitoba's number one tourist attraction. If it were not for federal dollars, it would not be there.
We could also talk about the development of North Portage. Again, if it were not for federal dollars, it would not have occurred. The impact it has had on the city of Winnipeg is phenomenal. If one saw what North Portage used to look like, prior to the investment and Ottawa coming to the table, one would be surprised by the degree to which North Portage brings people downtown, especially with the Winnipeg Jets and the beautiful MTS Centre. Different levels of government made that happen.
I made reference to the Forks and the federal dollars coming in. Today it is the most visited destination in the province of Manitoba. That would not have been possible had it not been for the recognition that the federal government had a role to play.
I could talk about Reg Alcock in the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin governments. Reg fought for the Kenaston underpass. It was not an easy fight. Ottawa, the province and the municipality agreed that we needed to have a pool of money. Consultations took place. The city had its priorities. The province had its priorities. Reg, representing Ottawa, said what he thought some of the priorities of the federal government would be. From that, the Kenaston underpass was built.
If we canvassed Manitobans, particularly those who live in Winnipeg, we would hear that the underpass has been a godsend. In fact, IKEA has just located in Winnipeg. Everyone is saying that Winnipeg is doing so much better. If it were not for the role of the federal government investing in that infrastructure, we would not have the Kenaston underpass. The city definitely was not going to do it alone. It was too big a job. It did not have the tax base to sustain it. Today the whole southern corridor is being developed, in good part because there is better traffic flow. It is one reason IKEA moved into the location south of that underpass.
A great deal of construction is taking place. In the north end is the twinning of Inkster Boulevard and CentrePort. Ottawa has a role to play. If Ottawa does not play a role, it is not going to be developed the way it needs to be developed. If we deny that development from taking place, we are preventing other economic opportunities that would generate wealth for Winnipeg, the province, and all of Canada. With the investment and participation of the federal government, we will recognize the dream of CentrePort. These are the types of infrastructure programs that make a difference.
I remember the 2007 provincial election. I was sitting on a street with my then leader, Jon Gerrard, talking about the potholes. We agreed that the City of Winnipeg could not do it alone. It did not have the resources to improve the infrastructure. The province needed to come on board to provide some of those necessary funds.
Ottawa also has an important role to fill. If it does not do that, we will see more of our streets and our back lanes crumble. Everything I said could be applied to every province and territory in Canada.
All of these investments would provide the opportunity for economies throughout our country to prosper. However, it takes political will. It takes courage. It takes leadership for the government to recognize the importance of infrastructure and to start investing not only resources but time. The Government of Canada needs to sit down with the provinces and the municipalities and come up with a strategy.
The Liberal Party has been calling for a transit strategy for years. I hear from rural communities and from my colleagues from the 905 area, who talk about train transportation or subway development and the need for Ottawa to pony up and become engaged. There is a need for a transit strategy.
We have talked about a housing strategy, because housing is part of infrastructure. The Government of Canada has virtually thrown its hands up and has said that it does not necessarily have any role. I have not seen any real sign of the national government wanting to play a role in a national housing strategy. Our housing stock is infrastructure. Infrastructure is more than a brand new building one might stand in front of to cut a ribbon and have that ideal photo op.
As I said, it is the pothole on the street, the sewer system and providing good quality water. Last year we introduced an opposition day motion calling for clean water for all communities across Canada. How many communities do not have access to clean running water? I would suggest that this is the core infrastructure we need to invest in.
We have water advisories in the province of Manitoba, and I do not think Manitoba is unique. In Atlantic Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, communities have water advisories. What role does Ottawa have to play?
Municipalities cannot afford this. Look at the overall costs. The revenue base for a municipality is property tax and a few other taxes here and there. None really amount to the dollars that are necessary.
We hear a lot about infrastructure and dollars and how much is really necessary. I would suggest that there are two numbers one could actually take into consideration. There is one big dollar amount, well into the billions and billions of dollars. In an ideal world, this is what we would want to spend. Then there is absolute need. It is hundreds of millions of dollars, well into the billions, that we need to invest in infrastructure.
If we are not prepared to invest in that infrastructure, there will be individuals who will not be able to drink water from their taps. They will have to purchase bottled water. Individuals will not even be able to bathe properly because of water advisory notices.
Cities and municipalities throughout our great nation will not be able to invest the type of money necessary for roads.
That is the reason it is so important. Infrastructure includes roads, highways, sewer lines, hydro, public transit, housing stock, the environment and water. That is some of the basic infrastructure we need to look at long term. It is not good enough for the government to say in budget 2013 what it going to do and to say in 2014 that it will think about it and let us know as we get closer to the 2014-2015 budget year.
For years we have been saying that we want sustainable funding for many years. That is the way plans can actually be implemented. Cities across the country would present a five-year capital plan for infrastructure. Now they do not have any real sense of what they can absolutely count on coming from the federal or provincial governments. There needs to be more certainty, because that certainty allows for better planning.
I heard one member make the statement that Toronto spent millions of dollars digging a hole for transit and spent more money filling the hole. Now it has more money to hopefully do the project, so it is digging the hole again. I suspect that we could find stories all over Canada about infrastructure projects that were started and put on hold. They might have been cancelled outright. That is not to mention the ones that were imagined for which requests for proposals were put out.
Imagine the tens of millions of dollars that have gone to waste because we do not have a long-term strategy. That is something we believe is absolutely necessary. That is why I started off by saying that no one should be surprised about what the Liberal Party is doing on this issue. Whether governing the country or in opposition, we have consistently advocated for infrastructure, and we are prepared to invest in infrastructure.
The government crows a lot about some of the investments it has brought in. I should remind the government that it had a minority situation. Many of the investments it brought in were brought in because the opposition forced it to. That is the reality.