House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was projects.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for his kind words about my grandson, Clovis, who joined our family last week.

I also want to mention my colleague's interest in parliamentary history and the history of inter-party relations. He is very knowledgeable about all the important facts that have shaped Canadian parliamentary history.

Does he agree that this government will go down in Canadian history and that his soon-to-be-born grandson will one day speak of this government as Canada's biggest-spending government ever?

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, the Fraser Institute recently reported that this government spends $9,066 per person, topping the previous record. In fact, this government has spent more than those that were in power during the Second World War and the worst economic crisis ever. In a time of peace and economic growth, that is utterly unacceptable according to the Fraser Institute.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kenneth McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the wonderful member for Surrey—Newton.

I thank the member for Mégantic—L'Érable for his motion. It is timely and important; timely, because we are beginning a pivotal decade in which Canadians are looking to governments to lead on climate action and foster clean growth; and important, because it allows me to talk about our government's vision for making Canada a global leader by transforming our economy and accelerating climate action all while creating well-paying, good jobs and keeping life affordable for Canadians. This is what our investing in Canada infrastructure plan seeks to do.

The results from our investments are there, with over one million new jobs created since we formed government in 2015 and historically low unemployment rates. As the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed in his 2018 report, the first phase of our plan helped to stimulate economic activity and job creation over its first two years.

Canada's resource economy is central to all of this as a way to enhance our environmental performance, create new wealth and generate the revenues we need to invest in our low-carbon future. This includes working with the provinces, territories, municipalities and indigenous communities to create a clean energy future, drive new economic opportunities in rural and northern communities, develop a cleaner transportation sector through zero-emission vehicles and the deployment of charging infrastructure across the country, and build modern trade and transportation routes to ensure we can get our resources to markets at home and abroad.

I would like to use the rest of my time today to talk about these four specific areas and how the investing in Canada infrastructure plan is playing a critical role to advance each of them.

The first is a clean energy future. We will not need meet our climate change targets unless we are using more clean electricity throughout our national economy, especially in energy-intensive sectors such as transportation and heating, as well as our traditional resource sectors. On this front, Canada is well positioned for continued success. Almost 82% of our electricity already comes from clean, non-emitting sources. In fact, we are the second-largest producer of hydro power on the planet. Wind and solar are now the fastest-growing sources of electricity generation in Canada.

We are supporting clean energy projects across the country through our emerging renewable power, smart grid and energy-efficient programs, which are investments that are creating jobs and new opportunities in the clean economy. In Saskatchewan, we are providing over $25 million for the first of its kind geothermal facility, which will produce enough energy to power approximately 5,000 homes. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we are supporting a project to incorporate renewable energy into the electricity grid in Shediac, New Brunswick and Amherst, Nova Scotia, creating jobs and lowering energy costs. Over the coming years, we will drive emissions down even further through new, zero-carbon electricity generation and transmission systems as well as modern smart grids and by connecting those provinces that have abundant clean energy to those that want and need it.

The investing in Canada infrastructure plan is helping us to do all of that as we seek to make Canada home to the cleanest mills, mines and factories in the world. In addition, by investing in innovative approaches to electricity distribution, including strategic entities, smart grids and storage, we can keep rates affordable for consumers and reduce carbon emissions. This is a win-win for the economy and the environment.

Second, we are using our historic infrastructure funding to help create new economic opportunities in rural, remote and indigenous communities. This includes connecting communities to existing power grids or constructing entirely new sources of cleaner energy so they can start turning off their diesel generators and start planning for a stronger, more sustainable future. For example, many indigenous communities are increasingly relying on biomass from forests as a source of both power and jobs. Others are building solar farms, and some are operating small hydro power facilities that they now want to expand. Through our investing in Canada infrastructure plan, we are helping to fund these clean energy futures while advancing indigenous reconciliation and creating sustainable jobs and growth.

A third key area is zero-emission vehicles.

Canadians want more options and cleaner choices for their transportation needs. They told us so through Generation Energy, the largest national discussion on energy in our country's history, and we are supporting them.

The transportation sector accounts for almost 25% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and three-quarters of those emissions come from just two sources: passenger cars and trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles. That is why we are helping to establish a coast-to-coast network of fast chargers for electric vehicles as well as chargers in the communities where Canadians work, live and play.

We are also supporting new natural gas stations along key freight corridors to reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles and hydrogen stations in our metropolitan centres.

All of these actions are aimed at providing Canadians with more options and cleaner choices for their transportation needs, and all with the goal of ensuring that every vehicle sold in Canada in 2040 will produce zero emissions.

To reach this target, we are also making zero-emission vehicles more affordable. We have introduced incentives, including rebates of up to $5,000 for Canadians buying eligible electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, as well as an immediate 100% writedown for businesses purchasing zero-emission vehicles to green their fleets.

As our government begins its second mandate, we are raising the bar again and taking more action with a plan to help build up to 5,000 charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway and other major road networks in urban centres and rural communities.

That brings me to the fourth key area: modernizing our trade and transportation routes.

It is a core responsibility of the federal government to help get our natural resources to market and to ensure that our resource sectors remain a source of jobs, prosperity and opportunity in a world that is increasingly demanding that raw materials and finished goods are not just competitively priced but sustainably and inclusively produced. Our investing in Canada plan is helping us do just that.

We have been accelerating infrastructure investments in marine ports as well as rail and highway corridors to remove bottlenecks and provide new opportunities for Canadian businesses to get their products to international markets.

We have also been improving access to transportation data in order to help shippers optimize their routes and to help governments better target their investments to make supply chains more efficient.

All of our investments in infrastructure are helping Canada build a modern, resilient and green economy, as well as a cleaner environment for a brighter, more prosperous future for generations to come.

I am proud to support our government's efforts and I urge all members of the House to join us. Together, we can create the prosperity we all want while protecting the planet that we all cherish.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, it has been noted by HealthCareCAN, which represents hospitals and health care organizations across this country, that we have a $15-billion deficit with respect to maintaining hospitals. Hospitals use 11% of public infrastructure energy and 5% of Canada's greenhouse gases are emitted by hospitals. It also noted that 48% of hospitals are over 50 years old and 69% of hospitals in our cities are over 50 years old. They must operate in disaster conditions, such as fires, floods, earthquakes or viral outbreaks. Hospital and health care organizations are ineligible for federal funding from the building Canada fund, the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, and the knowledge in infrastructure fund.

Does the member not think that it is time for the federal government to put money into this crucial part of our society to rebuild our health care infrastructure, to make sure that it is resilient in a time of climate change and when we need to be prepared for disaster and disaster mitigation?

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kenneth McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, my colleague mentioned hospitals and their aging infrastructure. Building hospitals and running hospitals is under the complete control of provinces. Money is transferred to each province through the health accord. Provinces decide if they want to replace some of their infrastructure, whether it be a hospital, a clean water project or bridges, or if they want to do road maintenance. It is not the federal government's place to tell provincial governments which project to apply for to get support. We encourage them to try and keep up their infrastructure.

I look forward to any application from any province getting approval to go ahead and get on with it, whether it be a health care facility or a clean water project.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador speaks very eloquently. However, I want to question him on some of the government's interventions so far on this debate today. The government seems to be reluctant to have the Auditor General, who is really the custodian of public finances across the country, to look at and evaluate the many problems we have had with infrastructure funding. I would like him to comment on that.

The second issue is the fact that we have seen members of the government say that infrastructure is very complicated and that is why tens of billions of dollars have not been effectively allocated. At the same time, the same Liberal government came up with, in 24 hours, $4.5 billion for the Trans Mountain pipeline, an old leaky pipeline that was losing money. The government had no hesitation in coming up with that money.

My question for my colleague is quite simple. Why is it so complicated when it is in the public good and the public interest to provide the infrastructure funding, but the government is so quick to approve billions of dollars when it is in the corporate interest?

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kenneth McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby mentioned the infrastructure deficit and how hard it was to get projects approved. As a former councillor and mayor in my hometown, it is not easy to get projects approved just by saying we want to do something.

The infrastructure money for my home community is based on a one-third/one-third/one-third funding envelope. Therefore, the community can apply to do a various number of projects, the province then has to oversee that as well be a partner in it and then forward that in an application to the federal government to be a partner in it as well. Therefore, we cannot control what projects communities actually apply for or what ones they do not apply for. Who are we to tell municipalities what projects they should move forward with?

As well, municipalities such as my municipality have a limited amount of funding. They cannot afford to do all the projects all at once or even to apply for them all at once. Therefore, they pick the most important, most strategic project that fits the town or municipality at the time, and hope they get them picked off one at a time.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Avalon for splitting his time with me.

I am very happy to speak to the motion proposed by the official opposition. I am happy because it is asking for something that has already been done, so it makes my job easier.

The government welcomes any scrutiny of its infrastructure investments, be it from the Auditor General or anyone else. The opposition likes to trash talk Canada. Just yesterday, a leadership candidate for the opposition party said that Canada was not working.

Those members seem not to have noticed that our Liberal government has helped Canadians create over one million jobs in the last four years and unemployment is lower than it has been in a generation. Canada has the fastest-growing economy of all G7 nations. The opposition members dismiss the hard work of Canadians who have built a country and an economy that is among the best in the world, and with this motion, they are casting aspersions on a program that, with our provincial partners, is helping Canadians build a better Canada.

Building a better Canada is something with which the Conservatives may be unfamiliar, given the previous government's cuts to important investments in infrastructure, health care and social programs.

Building a better Canada is something with which our government is very familiar. We have lifted 300,000 children out of poverty. Billions of dollars have been invested in affordable housing and infrastructure investments throughout Canada.

In Surrey alone, since 2015, we have invested over $7 million in classroom space at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and $125 million to build a new sustainable energy and environmental engineering building at SFU, Surrey.

We have invested over $1 billion to expand our Skytrain in Surrey. We have delivered over 106 new clean-energy buses and we are replacing the aging Skytrain cars. Residents in Surrey are also going to benefit from the widening of Highway 1, in which we invested $100 million in federal infrastructure funding.

We have invested in our families, with $600,000 for the Newton Recreation Centre and Surrey Art Gallery.

Most important, our social infrastructure is being strengthened by the Canada child benefit. It is helping nearly 14,000 families in my constituency of Surrey—Newton, with an average monthly benefit of $630 a month; that is $8.7 million helping parents and children lead strong healthy lives.

Those are just a few examples of how our government's $180 billion infrastructure plan is up and running. Funding has been approved for thousands of projects across the country, from small-scale jobs worth as little as a few thousand dollars to large-scale billion-dollar projects. By 2028, the investing in Canada plan will have invested more than $180 billion split between the investments in new programs and funding for existing initiatives.

Though some concerns remain about the flow of funding, and I understand the Conservatives have brought them forward, we have made significant progress. It appears one of the programs is almost complete. Over 90% of the projects are either under way or have been completed.

The building Canada fund is delivered with the provinces, territories and municipalities that must be ready to put shovels in the ground.

The complaints by the opposition members portray a wilful and deliberate lack of understanding of how infrastructure funding works. They do it to score cheap political points, not to help make life better for Canadians. As they well know, construction can begin as soon as a project is approved for federal funding. Communities are reimbursed for reasonable expenses and federal dollars flow at the rate construction occurs, after invoices are submitted for reimbursement not before.

The opposition members know this, but politically driven forgetfulness seems to have taken hold on that side of the House. The long-term plan we put in place with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners will meet their infrastructure investment needs. The money is there, and we encourage all provinces and territories to work with their municipalities to define their priorities and bring projects forward for federal approval so no one misses the upcoming construction season.

We are ready to start building.

We would welcome the Auditor General's examination of our investments, because, unlike the Conservatives, we are not building fake lakes, gazebos or roads to nowhere. We are building the infrastructure our country needs to keep Canada moving forward. Unlike the Conservatives, who campaigned on cutting billions of dollars from much-needed infrastructure projects across the country, our Liberal government knows that good infrastructure improves the lives of Canadians, creates jobs and grows our economy.

We know that investing in the infrastructure needs of coming decades will help our country adapt to the changing climate and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

In the recent election campaign, the Conservatives promised billions of dollars in cuts to much-needed infrastructure projects. These cuts would have had a deep impact in every corner of our country, which is why Canadians rejected them.

Our government knows and Canadians know that good infrastructure improves lives, creates jobs and grows our economy. It will also help mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We are building the infrastructure our country needs to keep Canada moving forward.

Partnerships are essential to build communities and to improve the quality of life of all Canadians. We have worked closely with provinces, territories, municipalities and indigenous peoples to develop our ambitious infrastructure plan, which has helped many communities. It is sad that the opposition is content to stay on the sidelines, throwing stones.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Madam Speaker, in 2015, the Liberals were elected on a promise to run small deficits in order to invest in infrastructure. It is now 2020. The deficits are enormous, and promises to invest $188 billion in infrastructure have not been kept.

I am not the one saying so. The Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that overall growth in public infrastructure spending has not changed. Billions of taxpayer dollars that were promised for infrastructure have gone missing.

Can my colleague tell us how his government lost track of those billions of dollars?

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, if the member for Beauce came to Surrey and talked to the mayor, councillors and the people of Surrey, they would tell the hon. member about the benefits they have received through the infrastructure investments, whether it was investments in the Simon Fraser University campus in Surrey, the Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, the SkyTrain moving through Surrey or the widening of Highway 1. All of those projects, whether small or large, are helping community needs. I am very proud of the work that our government has done.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Surrey—Newton for his speech.

We are talking a lot about investments. In his speech, the member repeated that the money is there. The reality on the ground, however, is that many projects are being blocked because the federal government is imposing conditions that are far too strict.

I wonder if my colleague from Surrey—Newton can explain why the government continues to stubbornly insist on strict conditions rather than transfer the money directly to Quebec and let the people on the ground, in other words, the Quebec government and its municipalities, manage their priorities. Needs vary widely from one municipality to the next, and the government cannot know what they are from its ivory tower in Ottawa.

Can my colleague explain that to us?

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I welcome the hon. member to Parliament.

I want to make it very clear that our government's approach has always been to work with municipalities and provincial and territorial governments to deliver projects, because municipalities know very well what the needs are in their communities. That is where it starts. They are the ones that take their needs and projects to the provinces. I am sure it is the same in Quebec. Once a project is approved, we as the federal government do not delay, providing funding right away so that shovels can be put in the ground. If there are any suggestions for changes, I am certain the minister would be open to making them to help Quebec and Quebec municipalities do better.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Québec Québec

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I find the exchanges about the collaboration between the Government of Canada and municipalities to be particularly interesting. The member from Beauce probably knows that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has said that in the past four years the Liberal government has been the best partner for all municipalities.

Can the member for Surrey—Newton, who is very familiar with his municipalities' issues, give examples of federal investments in partnership with the municipalities in his region?

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. minister for his leadership when it comes to my constituency of Surrey—Newton, where we created 176 affordable housing units that were much needed in my community. That happened in collaboration with the provincial government. This is the type of leadership we like to have from across the aisle when it comes to—

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to note that I am splitting my time with the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.

Before I get into my speech, I want to correct the record. The President of the Treasury Board just indicated that FCM is absolutely thrilled with the party on the other side. I would say there is a lot of hesitation from the mayors, counsellors and reeves I have spoken to across the country. They are quite disappointed in the way that money has flowed from the government and think that the government's communication back and forth on when exactly they will get that money has been a problem. I am sure he would be happy to accept my correction to the record.

Infrastructure impacts all Canadians on a daily basis. It is the roads we drive on, the public buildings we use and the parks we bring our children to. It is a large component of any government's budget, yet the current government seems unsure of how much funding has gone out the door to support infrastructure development.

In 2015, the Liberals promised that they would run modest deficits of less than $10 billion over the two years that followed and make historic investments in infrastructure. They have already failed on the modest deficits front. The deficit this year alone is estimated to be more than $26 billion. The government does not seem to have a plan to get the budget back to balance, but that is a different debate for a different day.

The government introduced the investing in Canada plan, a $188-billion plan to update infrastructure based on the priorities the government had. The government failed to work with the provinces to ensure they were shared priorities. Almost right away there were problems with the plan.

A March 2018 report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that only half of the spending promised to be invested in infrastructure had been tied to projects. After this finding was published, the government shuffled its cabinet and the next minister of infrastructure was urged in his mandate letter to stop the current lag with regard to infrastructure projects and get more money out the door. The government knew it was failing to meet expectations.

Reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer kept coming. Another report found provinces were not investing as much in infrastructure as the federal government had estimated. This is a result of the federal government's not consulting with provinces when developing its investing in Canada plan.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer also ran into roadblocks when conducting research for its reports. After a request, Infrastructure Canada was unable to provide the data requested regarding a list of all the specific project commitments under the investing in Canada plan.

That is why we need the Auditor General of Canada to immediately conduct an audit of the government's plan. The department that should have a thorough list of all the projects in its own plan cannot provide it. Canadians deserve to know how their money is being spent.

I have seen first-hand how the incompetence of the government's infrastructure plan has been impacting Canadians. For the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to travel across Canada and visit mayors and counsellors in rural and urban municipalities. I have spoken to municipal leaders from all provinces and territories to get their feedback on the current infrastructure plan.

One of the biggest things I heard during these discussions was that money needed for crucial infrastructure was stuck in Ottawa and that the federal government is not listening to local concerns. This Ottawa-knows-best approach is not working for municipalities. We need to streamline infrastructure and need a government that acts in the best interest of local communities on matters of infrastructure.

Many of these municipal representatives told me that they have yet to see any promised infrastructure funding flow into the areas. They have put in the requests and sometimes do not even hear back from the federal government. Mayors and counsellors want more control over their projects. They want to decide what gets done instead of having bureaucrats, sometimes thousands of kilometres away, choose what to prioritize.

Many of the municipalities I consulted have said online application forms to receive infrastructure spending are so complicated that some have even given up entirely. Imagine having the sole beneficiaries of funding not even bother to apply for funding because it has been made too difficult. Instead, these municipalities are looking for other sources of funding to get their projects built.

The government also founded the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a $35-billion agency designed to attract private investors to create public infrastructure projects. Despite costing so much money, we have seen very little in the way of announcements from the bank. In fact, the first announcement from this bank came more than two years after its establishment and it was just a reannouncement of funding that the government had already pledged.

Despite not accomplishing much, the infrastructure bank has had no problem asking for more money from the federal government to cover salaries, legal services, travel and other expenses. Announcements from the bank are sparse and the government has not yet been transparent about what the bank is actually achieving for Canadians.

Not all Canadians will even benefit from the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The finance minister confirmed that small municipalities will not benefit because investors will look to invest only, in his words, in “large transformational projects” that Maclean's notes will “produce a revenue stream, from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investment.” As well, the bank will only provide funding to projects worth $100 million or more, virtually guaranteeing that rural communities across Canada will not qualify, while small and medium-sized municipalities are losing $15 billion of infrastructure money to pay for the bank.

It is clear that the government is not listening to Canadians and is being unresponsive to concerns about the investing in Canada plan. Instead, it is continuing to forge ahead with a plan that has very obvious shortcomings.

The government knows its plan is failing too. In budget 2019, Liberals allocated a $2.2-billion top-up in municipal transfers to fund short-term infrastructure projects for the year, which, as we all know, happened to be an election year. This was despite having the previous four years in government to address delays in delivering this much-needed infrastructure.

I am anticipating that some of my colleagues across the aisle will accuse our party of wanting to cut infrastructure funding, but that is simply not true. Our previous government's record speaks for itself. Our economic action plan approved and announced $12 billion in infrastructure projects in three years of government during the worst economic crisis in a generation. We understand how important infrastructure is to Canadians. We understand the need to get dollars out the door as quickly as possible so projects can be completed in more reasonable time lines. Cutting infrastructure funding is not in our country's best interest.

The government also promised that the investing in Canada plan would stimulate the economy. The Liberals promised they would raise the level of real GDP by up to 1% in the 2017-18 fiscal year. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that there was no increase in the level of real GDP from infrastructure in Canada.

Their record on infrastructure is one of failure. They failed to match infrastructure funding with projects preferred by the municipalities. They failed to keep the deficits modest. They failed to grow the economy in the way that they promised to Canadians. They failed to be accountable and transparent.

When asked for details about the program, they cannot provide them. The department itself has an idea of how many infrastructure investments have been made. The Parliamentary Budget Officer could not get the facts. We have no idea how billions of dollars in taxpayer money is being spent.

The Auditor General must audit the investing in Canada plan to verify whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises. My guess is that it is not.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his attention to the matter before us. There seems to be a short memory here. The member emphatically stated that no cuts to infrastructure spending were proposed by his party, but the platform for the Conservative Party clearly indicated an $18-billion cut to infrastructure funding.

Be that as it may, we welcome a review by the Auditor General of the infrastructure plan. In fact the only thing we have an objection to today is the motion's preamble, which mis-characterizes the Auditor General's report because it refers to an outdated report. That was a superseded report. The auditor's report from 2018 clearly says that we are delivering the plan we said we would. By the way, we also delivered one million jobs for Canadians with the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, and optimism is very high across the country. I am sorry that this confidence is being undermined.

Perhaps the member wishes to have a do-over on not supporting the amendment so that we could all vote for this welcome review of the infrastructure plan.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Madam Speaker, colour me shocked that the member does not like the part of the motion that tells him that the government has failed. Be that as it may, we certainly seem to have a different memory of what has happened in the past four years.

I took six months to go across the country leading up to the election and heard time and time again about these delays in infrastructure funding. As I said in my speech, we are absolutely not interested in cutting infrastructure funding. That is what our Canadian municipalities have asked for. However, under the government they cannot even get the funding.

As the member has accused us of cutting the funding, I would remind him that it is the reason we are here today. We do not know what his plan says. We do not know the dollar amounts in his plan. That is why we need the Auditor General to give us a thorough review of the investing in Canada plan.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, over the years, I have seen all kinds of egregious abuses by the Conservatives and Liberals. When they say they are going to work with us, it is like being invited by a crocodile to come down and have a nice little luncheon by the riverside.

The Liberals are saying we should be nice to them and trust them and they will smother us like Teletubbies. However, what I have been really concerned about with the government, despite all the smiles, is the undermining of the officers of Parliament. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is the one tool we have for accountability. If we cannot find billions of dollars in infrastructure spending, I am sorry, I am not going to trust the Liberals. I trust the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

I would like to bring this to the point of when the Ethics Commissioner investigated the Prime Minister with respect to SNC-Lavalin and was denied documents by the Prime Minister's Office under the issue of cabinet confidentiality.

How can we investigate a government if it refuses to turn over the main documents to the parliamentary officers who work for all of us? They do not work for individual parties, the opposition or the government. They work for the people of Canada. Therefore, this motion is very important, because we need the Parliamentary Budget Officer to not be interfered with or undermined by the smiling Teletubbies or perhaps, behind those Teletubbies, the alligators in the Prime Minister's Office.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Madam Speaker, time and again in the last Parliament we saw egregious attacks on the independent officers, particularly the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who kept trying to help the government by putting forward these reports, yet the government continued on the same path. At the very last minute it realized it was a failed path, so it quickly shoved $2 billion into a fund to get gas tax money out the door. That in itself shows that this is a failure and, if it wants to work with us across the aisle, the Liberal government needs to pay attention to the independent officers, like the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who are here to help all parliamentarians.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate this motion brought forward by the Conservative Party today focusing on the parliamentary budget office quote about infrastructure lapses. I wonder if this is a more generic problem than a political problem, because I see in the report from the PBO that infrastructure spending promised before 2016 seems to have had the same problem. In other words, legacy infrastructure programs are prone to a 24% lapse rate, and infrastructure projects had a 33% lapse rate in 2016-17. I think this is an important issue. What does the member think are the reasons for the lapses, and could they be much more structural than political?

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Madam Speaker, that is essentially what we need to get to the bottom of. I think the member raises probably the most important point in infrastructure funding in this country, which is looking at structural and budgetary problems. That is what we are hoping the Auditor General will do as part of this report. We have to look forward to work together.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for sharing his time with me this afternoon in the chamber.

I want to thank the House of Commons staff for their warm and helpful welcome over the course of the last three months. I have had many constituents and colleagues ask me how my experience has been as a newly elected member, and the line I keep using is that it is like a baptism by blowtorch. However, it has been a wonderful experience and I have enjoyed it all very much. The House leadership team, colleagues and staff have made a big change into a new role very manageable, and I appreciate that very much.

Being my maiden speech today, I would like to divert a little and put a few thanks into the record. First, I want to thank the wonderful constituents of the riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for the wonderful honour they have given me to serve in the House. This was literally a childhood dream of mine. The first time I sat here in the chamber was with my aunt. She worked for the House of Commons and I was able to sit in the Prime Minister's chair about 20-some years ago. I think I got the political bug, if not before then, certainly that night being in the chamber for the first time.

I want to thank my family, who has been so supportive, not only in this new journey but my entire 32 years here: my mom Bea, my father Ed, my sister Jill, and for those who wonder how I get a thick skin in politics, my five stepsisters. They have been a wonderful family of support and a family network for me, and I am grateful for them and all that they do and continue to do for me.

I also want to acknowledge my predecessor, who served in this House as a Conservative member of Parliament for 15 years, Guy Lauzon. Many would know Guy over the years. He served as national Conservative caucus chair and in government served as parliamentary secretary in a couple of roles. He was known in our riding for setting the bar quite high, for being approachable, for being out in the community and for the customer service he offered in the office. He certainly set the bar for me, as well as for other people in our community, for being in public life, being accessible and offering that customer service.

It is very fitting that I have the opportunity to speak today to our opposition day motion about infrastructure, because one of my predecessor's great legacies was the amount of money he was able to secure and bring home to Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry under a Conservative government.

Many ask how he and Frances are doing today. Frances is in good health, and I appreciate all the members who are asking how she is doing. Both of them are loving their time down in Florida this winter. When people ask what Guy is doing these days, I say that he is enjoying his role as the hon. member of Parliament for Fort Myers, Florida, this winter and doing well there.

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the people of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.

Today, I will say a few words in French for my francophone friends living in my riding. French is my second language and I am working on improving it. I understand the importance of Canada's two languages. Many people in my riding speak French. Next week I will be starting a French course.

There is no shortage of files in our riding that are going to need attention over the course of this upcoming Parliament. We have seen news reports, have heard questions asked in the House and there have been meetings within the Conservative caucus and outreach from some members of government, which I appreciate, about the water levels in Lake St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River. That goes all the way across Ontario and Quebec. I know it is a challenge not only during the spring but throughout the year.

In my riding, between Iroquois and Cornwall, we generally have the opposite problem that many communities have. When there are high water levels present in the Great Lakes or in Montreal, we often have low water levels, which creates environmental, economic and property damage concerns. I want to thank the many people who have reached out to me so far and have been briefing me and giving me their perspectives locally, across the province and across the region on that file.

Being from a rural riding, I understand that agriculture is very important. I do not think a day went by during my campaign, and even now as a newly elected member, when I was not talking about the importance of supply management in our agricultural sector. I support that day in and day out, whether in the House as we work with other countries on trade deals or whatever it may be. Agriculture is the backbone of my riding. If it is not supply management, it is our grains and oilseeds farmers, and the global markets are a challenge I look forward to working on.

I want to acknowledge, and look forward to working with, the Minister of Transport and Transport Canada, as the city of Cornwall, Akwesasne and neighbouring communities are going to be dealing with some surplus land on the waterfront of Cornwall.

That presents such an opportunity for the city of Cornwall, to have those lands for public use and for myriad different uses. It can unlock a lot of potential in terms of public spaces and in terms of economic development for the city, and for the people of Akwesasne across the river in our region to benefit. I look forward to it. Regardless of what side of the House members are on, it is really an issue on which we could find co-operation and deliver a positive outcome for my riding.

We talk about the opposition day motion here today. Getting action on any of those files I just talked about, and on infrastructure projects, takes co-operation. I am not naive. I understand that I am on this side of the House and not the government side of the House, and that is going to take co-operation. However, I also think, as an early observer here in the House, there have been some great working relationships.

I want to acknowledge a neighbouring colleague of mine, the Liberal member of Parliament for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. Shortly after the election, a mutual friend of ours connected us by text message. I went into his riding and we had a wonderful lunch in Alexandria at the Quirky Carrot. I was very pleased at the end of the lunch when the member offered to buy lunch that day. I said he did not have to, and he said, “You're in my riding, I'll buy you lunch today. When you come to my riding, I will buy you lunch.” I told the member I have been saving up my McDonald's coupons since then for a visit to Cornwall.

However, it has been the start of a good, productive bipartisan working relationship. I appreciate his advice as we talk about infrastructure, agricultural issues and a big issue in eastern Ontario, which I know several colleagues in our party are very interested in, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network. We have been improving broadband and have made some investments as a Conservative government supported by the current government, but there is a lot more to do. I have been very proud of the advocacy that we have been doing, and many members of the House on both sides have been doing, to improve cell capacity all across rural eastern Ontario.

In my time left, speaking specifically about the opposition day motion, I strongly support the motion being brought forward. My background before I became a member of Parliament was serving as a mayor in the Township of North Dundas and serving on county council and as warden of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

Frankly, over the course of the last couple of years when I have spoken to my successors on county council, local councils in my riding and all parts of the province of Ontario and beyond, people were not seeing those dollars get to the front lines of where they need to go. It is a challenge that, when money is announced, municipalities try to get their projects ready and they just do not happen. It is a bigger and bigger challenge the more I see the government not react to this.

A perfect example is the Ontario-Canada infrastructure fund. I will use a project in my riding as an example. I had the honour of standing in the House in December and asking the minister a question about this. A project in my riding that has applied for funding is the Morrisburg streetscape project. That is a project with the Municipality of South Dundas and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

They applied for that program nearly a year ago. We were very pleased to see the Ontario government go through and approve that project back in July and have been waiting ever since for an answer and an okay from the federal government on that project. It creates a big challenge because, if the federal funding could have come through in July, the communities might have been able to get shovels in the ground and get the RFPs going out for that project to happen this year. The challenge is now that it is going to be February next week, municipal budgets are being done and completed, and they are not sure if that one-third is there.

Municipalities are a mature level of government. They do asset management plans. They know what their priorities are. My colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador across the aisle, who spoke a few minutes ago, had experience at the municipal level and was talking about those one-third, one-third, one-third partnerships, which I agree are great. They have been supported by all parties over the past several parliaments. However, if the dollars are not flowing and there is not a good process when the announcements are made, those billions of dollars are not getting to the municipalities. It is not being effective.

I support the motion for the Auditor General to take a look. I would encourage my colleagues on the government side. It is either going to confirm that there is a problem, or it will debunk a myth. There is a problem there, from what I see and hear in my riding, and I respect the work of the Auditor General, as all members of the House do. I look forward to supporting this motion, seeing that report and seeing what we can do better to support municipalities, and get the dollars to municipalities and shovels in the ground.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, what is really concerning me in representing regions in northern Ontario is that many of our communities are completely dependent on winter roads. However, right now, because of changes in weather, the winter roads are not operating, which means that the supplies that are needed for the entire year are not getting into communities. That will create an economic catastrophe in communities, whether it is Pikangikum, Cat Lake or Kashechewan, where we are trying to deal with the crisis of a lack of basic housing.

One of the opportunities we have is to commit to permanent roads that will run up through northern Canada, particularly in Treaty 9 and particularly along the coast of James Bay. We see on the Quebec side that they have built the roads up, and the difference between poverty on the Quebec side and poverty on my side is night and day because of the infrastructure.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he supports making long-term investments to bring indigenous communities out of the fourth world by building the roads they need so that we can get supplies in at a reasonable rate.

Opposition Motion—Audit of the Government's Investing in Canada PlanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree wholeheartedly about the need for infrastructure.

As I mentioned in my comments, when infrastructure projects are advocated by first nations communities and municipalities, they are the ones who are on the front lines every day dealing with those infrastructure concerns.

There is a ripple effect. It is not only the roads and bridges that need to be built in the short term, but it is having year-round access to those communities, whether for food or economic development. Whatever the means, method and benefit may be, there are a lot. Therefore, I think we need to rely more on them and get rid of this red tape and these delays in getting infrastructure dollars out the door.

We can rely on the judgment and expertise of those who are living in those communities every day and who know their priorities. If the local government says it is a priority and the provincial government then approves it, there does not need to be another six, eight or nine months of waiting and reporting and analyzing. We should trust the mature level of government of municipalities to get this done, but frankly, over the course of the last four years, we have not seen that method in use at all.