Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House in order to demonstrate to many of my colleagues how important this motion is to the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and certainly to the vast majority of the ridings we represent. This motion is important because the Liberals are creating an infrastructure privatization program that will not meet the needs of the communities we represent.
The priority of the corporations within the infrastructure privatization bank is not to build infrastructure, but to make a profit. Furthermore, the government has handed over control of planning and implementing the privatization bank to private investors and multinationals. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised infrastructure investment that would benefit all Canadians. Now we are in a situation where the government has just put the interests of big corporations first.
I represent 25 municipalities that believed the Liberals’ promises about infrastructure investment. In the riding I represent, the largest municipality, the major city, is the 18th largest in Quebec. The next one has almost 10 times fewer residents, as does the third. After that we have villages with populations ranging from 3,000 to 500. Even for the largest municipality in the riding I represent, the infrastructure privatization bank will not be there. In fact, projects over $100 million that provide long-term returns of 10% to 12% do not exist in my riding and do not exist in the vast majority of ridings that we represent in the House.
It is understandable that, for electoral reasons, the focus would be on the major urban centres, where most Canadians are concentrated, but our country is being developed keeping land use in mind. We occupy, through our different ridings, a vast country outside the major urban centres. The very large majority of the municipalities we represent will therefore not have access to this infrastructure bank.
I can say that these communities have certain needs. Before becoming a member of Parliament, I was a municipal councillor for six years. The district I represented faced numerous infrastructure needs. Part of the sewer system of the district was 100 years old. Part of it was still made of brick. The year after I was elected, there was a great deal of rainfall. This is indeed the time to talk about this, now that so many communities are experiencing this flooding. After an abundant rainfall, many houses had backed-up sewers.
At that time, the city manager told me not to worry, that it was an exceptional situation that did not happen often, maybe every 10 years. However, there was a problem, because in the following year there were more heavy rains; the whole thing started over again, as it did the year after that. Today we are in a situation where events like this are happening more and more regularly, like the one we are now facing. All the experts and scientists agree that we are going to experience situations like this with increasing frequency.
Our municipalities have major infrastructure needs, as old infrastructures are in need of upgrading. The district I represented had a combined sewer system, that is, the same system had sanitary sewers and storm sewers. We know that today this is no longer the norm. At one time, the goal was to send the water to the river as quickly as possible, in both urban centres and rural communities.
In the 1980s in Quebec, we had a vast land drainage program. There are great benefits to land drainage, but it also takes the water to our rivers very quickly, and in communities like mine, 10 or 12 hours after a rainfall, the river level rises substantially, causing a lot of problems.
All municipalities are grappling with these kinds of infrastructure issues. The needs are great, and not all of the smaller communities can meet them. As I was saying earlier, the infrastructure bank targets projects of over $100 million. However, there is a problem with respect to all the other programs as well.
This government does not seem to realize that not all the municipalities have thousands of employees. The largest municipality I represent has 250 employees, the second largest 10 times fewer, and 22 of the 25 municipalities I represent average two and a half employees. We are then asking two and a half employees to deal with these issues and these infrastructure programs, which are in no way adapted to their reality. What is more, I am going to have to tell them that the billions of dollars the government will be investing in an infrastructure bank are not for them.
Regarding the wastewater treatment program I was talking about earlier, I was not surprised to find that the projects approved in my riding were those of the only three cities. The mayors of the towns told me that when they could have been ready to submit their project, they were told that they might just as well forget about it, that there was nothing more available, that it was “first come, first served” and their turn had come and gone. These communities have to be kept in mind.
When it comes to infrastructure, most of the communities I represent are barely keeping their heads above water financially, and this is certainly the week for that imagery. The tiniest wave can make them go under, because they do not have the resources to maintain roads or their drinking water and wastewater treatment systems. This is important.
When I was a municipal councillor, I represented an urban district, and in my last year in office I had to go door to door to explain to the citizens of my district that the sidewalks would be removed from their street when the street was redone. At one time, when a street was built, a sidewalk would be built too, but we no longer have the resources to maintain this kind of infrastructure. It is important for the government to understand that it cannot go off in this direction. It is better to stop working with these private investors, whose only aim is to make big profits.
Ottawa has the capacity to reduce costs for Canadians by financing projects at far lower rates. If the Liberals think that their privatization program offers real benefits for Canadians, they should not be afraid to support today’s motion and withdraw their legislative measures for the infrastructure bank from the omnibus budget bill, so that those measures can be studied and given genuine debate.
I have just explained the needs of the riding I represent. We must take the time to talk about issues concerning the infrastructure of all of our communities. The infrastructure bank must be removed from the omnibus bill so that time can be taken to discuss it. We must explain to the government what the communities we represent are experiencing.
I represent 25 mayors who are counting on me to support them on the infrastructure issue. I must be up to that challenge. To do so, I must have the opportunity to discuss this. The Liberals have to abandon this infrastructure bank, stop rushing through the issues in their omnibus bill, and allow us the time to discuss them.