Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak about the very great partnerships that our federal government has developed and how they have contributed, and continue to contribute, to making our country, Canada, one of the best countries in which to live.
Infrastructure is the backbone of our communities. It supports economic growth and a better quality of life because it provides Canadians with the essentials they need, transportation, clean water, recreation and cultural facilities, to carry out a safe, healthy and productive life. Public infrastructure has always been, and will continue to be, a key driver of Canada's success as a nation. Whether it is investments in highways, water treatment technology or airports, these investments help our industries reach global markets, protect our environment and support our cities and our communities. Investment in quality public infrastructure builds strong communities, but it cannot be done by one single order of government.
I remind members of Helen Keller's words of wisdom. She said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. This, I believe, is how progress is achieved, meeting challenges through co-operation across all levels of government.
As the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities, I am very proud of the achievements that have been made possible through the steady collaboration with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners. In Canada, the vast majority of core public infrastructure is in fact owned by municipalities, provinces and territories, with the balance, less than one-tenth, owned by the federal government. This means that provinces, territories and municipalities are ultimately responsible for building, expanding, maintaining, rehabilitating and operating almost all of Canada's public infrastructure. As a result, provinces, territories and municipalities are also best positioned to identify local and regional needs and priorities.
In order to provide a better quality of life for Canadians, to maintain a competitive edge over other G7 countries and to keep our economy on track, we are making record investments in public infrastructure. We are doing so through the $53 billion new building Canada plan, which provides the necessary funding to other levels of government for their critical projects and initiatives. While these funds are used to fund priorities identified by provinces, territories and municipalities, these projects could not proceed without federal collaboration and contributions.
In recent years, Canadians have seen the benefits of partnership and the historic infrastructure investments that the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments have been making under the leadership of our great Prime Minister.
When the original building Canada plan was launched in 2007, it marked a new era for infrastructure partnership funding, and a new relationship among all orders of government. The plan was the result of engagement and discussions with provinces and territories, as well as the municipal sector. The intent was to identify an approach to provide federal funding for provincial, territorial and municipal public infrastructure in a way that was more predictable and long term in nature. In fact, the development of the plan itself, in 2006, clearly set the tone for a new approach to public infrastructure, a much better approach.
Our Conservative government consulted with all provinces and territories and a number of municipal associations with the purpose of putting federal funding on a predictable long-term track. This series of meetings at all levels resulted in a coordinated suite of infrastructure programs that recognize provincial-territorial jurisdiction for municipalities, as well as the diverse needs and opportunities across Canada. This collaborative approach laid the groundwork for a fast and efficient response to the global economic slowdown in 2009.
Budget 2009 announced the acceleration of existing infrastructure funding under the building Canada plan, as well as new infrastructure funding over two years, in order to stimulate economic growth and employment, while also supporting Canada's long-term productivity.
Strong and effective partnerships with provincial, territorial and municipal governments were essential to the success of the economic action plan's infrastructure elements. A concerted national effort was made to overcome the challenges of developing and rolling out this funding in a very short period of time.
There have been literally thousands of projects funded across the country. Regardless of their size or scope, they all improved the quality of life in the communities in which they were built. At the end of the day, this is what Canadians care about most, and this is something of which we can all be very proud.
The results of the economic action plan are a testament to the high degree of co-operation that was shown by all levels of government across Canada under the leadership of our Prime Minister. It is based on this level of co-operation and success that our government forged ahead with the new building Canada plan, which is currently under way.
In budget 2011, our government committed to developing a long-term plan for public infrastructure that would extend beyond the expiry of the building Canada plan in 2014. To meet this commitment, we engaged provinces, territories, municipalities and other infrastructure stakeholders to shape a new plan. This involved taking stock of our achievements and lessons learned, identifying priorities for the future, and building the knowledge required to address Canada's future infrastructure needs.
As part of this engagement, in the summer of 2012, the then-minister of state, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, and the minister of infrastructure both chaired regional round tables with our provincial and territorial counterparts, where they met with close to 150 provincial, territorial, regional, municipal and private sector stakeholders from across the country to discuss the development of our new plan.
Over the course of 2012 and 2013, Infrastructure Canada officials also met with provinces, territories, municipalities and other stakeholder groups to discuss the development of the new plan. During this process, we took note of a great variety of ideas and opinions. However, a few key themes emerged, namely: the need to build on the success of past programs; the need for long-term, stable and flexible funding; the need for infrastructure programs that support economic growth; and the need to identify a role for the private sector.
These consultations had a real impact on the development of the new plan, and we could not have done it without the feedback from our partners.
Let me explain the results of this collaborative work.
Our partners indicated that infrastructure funding programs needed improvements, so we improved them. In order to provide the flexibility that the provinces, territories and municipalities asked for, categories under the new plan were realigned to give our partners the freedom to decide where they needed their funding to go. Predictability was a major request. The new building Canada plan is a 10-year plan. Our partners requested that processes be more efficient. We reorganized our processes to streamline both funding applications and expense claims.
Not only have we heard our partners, but we acted upon what we heard, and the new plan speaks for itself. The overall federal investment in infrastructure will be more than $75 billion in the next 10 years. At the heart of these investments is, of course, the new building Canada plan.
The new building Canada plan provides $53 billion for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. Most important, our plan is set for 10 years so our partners can focus on delivering infrastructure for Canadians over the long term.
The plan includes the $14 billion building Canada fund which has two parts: a national infrastructure component and the provincial-territorial infrastructure component.
The national infrastructure component will support investments for major economic projects of national significance, in particular, those that support job creation, economic growth and productivity. It focuses on highways, public transit, disaster mitigation, and gateway and trade corridor infrastructure, which are very important for our country.
The provincial-territorial infrastructure component supports projects of national, regional and local significance such as highways, public transit, drinking water, waste water, connectivity and broadband, and innovation, for example.
In addition, we have also provided another $1.25 billion over five years to renew the P3 Canada fund. The renewal of the P3 Canada fund will continue to support innovative ways to build infrastructure projects in the country. Public-private partnerships can achieve greater savings and efficiency in the delivery of much needed infrastructure projects, which will provide better value for Canadian taxpayers.
Let us not forget that in Canada, as I mentioned earlier, the vast majority of core public infrastructure is indeed owned by municipalities, provinces and territories, with the balance, less than one-tenth, owned by the federal government.
The biggest part of our plan is the community improvement fund, which includes $21.8 billion for the gas tax fund transfer. This is permanent, stable, predictable funding. There is another change, one that has been repeatedly asked for by municipal leaders, a change that will keep it growing. The gas tax fund transfer is now indexed so municipalities will not be penalized as inflation grows.
The program is also more flexible than ever before. It will continue to support community infrastructure projects such as roads, public transit and recreational facilities, and we have doubled the number of eligible categories. Gas tax transfers will now also support projects in categories such as culture, tourism, sport and recreation, disaster mitigation, broadband communication systems and local and regional airports.
We have a flexible plan that lets local councils set their own local priorities. For example, many cities have focused on transit. Thus far, more than one-quarter of the gas tax fund has been directed to public transit projects. That is $2 billion in transit funding since 2006 from just one program.
In five of Canada's largest cities, all or nearly all of the gas tax transferred goes toward public transit. We did not decide to invest there, municipalities did, but we ensured it was an eligible category based on our discussions with our municipal partners.
Other municipalities have other priorities that also fit within the parameters of the programs we have collectively built together.
That is how we do business. We consult our partners and we are in constant contact with them. More than one-quarter of the federal gas tax fund has been invested in local roads and bridges to date, while 16% of the gas tax fund has gone to water and over 10% has been used for waste water.
Across Canada, local councils are making the right choices for their communities, and we are happy to help them make this important progress. Let us not forget that provinces, territories and municipalities are ultimately responsible for building, expanding, maintaining, rehabilitating and operating almost all of Canada's public infrastructure. As a result, provinces, territories and municipalities are also best positioned to identify their own investments for local and regional needs and priorities.
Let us recap. The municipalities asked for more flexibility. Let us look at those 18 gas tax fund categories. They asked for a long-term plan: the plan is a decade long. They asked for more funding: we gave them $53 billion over the next decade. They asked us to index the gas tax fund: indexing is in the new plan.
We did not waste any time implementing this new plan with our partners either. Important projects worth more than an estimated $5 billion in total project costs have already been approved and identified for funding under the new building Canada fund. These projects contribute to getting goods to market, to connecting people and businesses with the world, and to reducing gridlock on our roads and highways, which in turn boosts our productivity and competitiveness. This includes projects such as the Valley Line stage one light rail transit expansion in Edmonton, water and wastewater projects across Manitoba, improvements to Nova Scotia's 100 series highway systems, and our recently announced funding for key upgrades to the Port of Montreal.
This spirit of co-operation has taken us a long way and will be even more essential as we go forward. We worked shoulder-to-shoulder to develop a long-term infrastructure plan that meets the needs of Canadian citizens from coast to coast. Now we are working together with the provinces and municipalities to implement that plan.
Going forward, strong partnerships will remain key to continued investments and world-class modern infrastructure across Canada. Through these investments, and in partnership with the provinces, territories, and municipalities, we are delivering results, not just talking, as the opposition does. We are delivering results that matter to Canadians, such as a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and a more prosperous and vibrant Canada with more prosperous and vibrant communities.
We look forward to this continued collaboration, to continued action, and to continued results.