Mr. Speaker, we all know just how much the current Liberal government loves slogans, clichés and idioms, a whole variety of figures of speech and double-talk, to avoid straight talk, transparent answers and well-reasoned policy. As we all know, the Prime Minister is the cliché master, double-talker and sloganeer: “I've got your back”; “We are all in this together”; “We will succeed, because we must succeed”; “We have the tools”; “We're all hands on deck”; and, of course, the ultimate fallback when faced with a tough question, “Nothing is off the table”. The Prime Minister has excused ethical lapses by telling the Ethics Commissioner that he does not have business meetings when he improperly joins meetings with lobbyists; they are just relationship sessions. The PM excuses alleged misbehaviour from decades ago, and even from much more recently, by saying he respects women's ability to experience things differently.
Clichés are essentially a result of unremarkable thinking, which brings me to the theme of the Speech from the Throne: the remarkably imprecise commitment to build back better. The current government may have a historic record for spending hard-earned Canadian taxpayer dollars, but it has an abysmal record of building anything.
Last week, the government made much of the relaunch of perhaps the Liberals' most misguided creation, the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The institution, when it was created in 2017, was challenged far and wide as a problematic, theoretical mix of public and private investment and interest, and, as predicted, it has been a flop. Still, the original CEO retired with a six-figure bonus on top of his $600,000-a-year salary. Last week's attempted resuscitation included a new board chair and re-profiling of $10 billion of the original still-languishing dollars. However, the Liberals are still hoping that private investors will be drawn in by the public money put up to backstop loans, which really lays all of the investment risks on Canadian taxpayers.
There is one infrastructure investment by the government that has seen Canadian tax dollars spent. Unfortunately, it has been invested offshore: $256 million to buy an interest in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Global Affairs officials warned the Liberals that the investment would be used by China to further the communist regime's authoritarian model of governance in vulnerable nations around the world, and it has. Those Canadian tax dollars are building infrastructure, but the building is not happening in Canada and it is not creating Canadian jobs.
All of that said, there is one massive infrastructure project under way in Canada today, an almost $6-billion project, but it again speaks powerfully to the government's fumbling, to lost opportunities for a major Canadian employer and to many lost worker-years of employment. It is the Gordie Howe International Bridge project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America today. It will provide a spectacular new crossing link between Windsor and Detroit that will be of tremendous benefit to bilateral trade and travel.
When bids were called in 2016 and 2017 for the massive precast reinforced concrete girders and slabs for the longest main span of any cable-stayed bridge in North America, Canada's leading infrastructure product manufacturing company, with the largest manufacturing facility in Canada, a company called Decast, tendered bids compliant with Canadian specifications and Ontario's tough MTO standards. The girder portion of the project is worth $20 million and 30 direct full-time jobs for one year. The slab portion of the project is worth $40 million, with 45 direct manufacturing jobs for a year and a half. This does not account for the many millions of dollars in downstream business for Ontario suppliers of the aggregates, the cement and steel materials, and the many trucking and transportation jobs.
What happened? Decast lost the bid. Who got it? It was a company that did not meet any of the quoted specifications or standards, with a facility not certified under the Canadian precast concrete quality assurance certification program, a company that does not buy material from the MTO's designated sources of materials list, a company that does not have facilities to allow proper concrete curing to MTO standards, a company that is American, in Columbus, Ohio.
When Decast asked why Canadian and Ontario MTO standards cited in the tender were so flagrantly ignored, the Ontario government, which should have jurisdiction over standards for a project largely in this province, had an answer: The federal government put Canadian and Ontario safety and quality standards aside and decided to export Canadian dollars and Canadian jobs to Ohio. Canada is paying for 85% of the construction of the Gordie Howe bridge, not to mention paying the bill to the customs facility on the U.S. side, and it exported the structural manufacturing and all those jobs.
The latest infrastructure minister has some questions to answer. Why? What standards is the U.S. manufacturer working to? Who is auditing the U.S. manufacturer? MTO standards are set for a 100-year service life. With the deficient standards, does the Gordie Howe bridge consortium only care about the 30 years it will be responsible for the operation of the bridge?
Infrastructure spending should contribute to the growth and prosperity of Canada. The government does not get that sourcing foreign, in the absence of fair trade, will hobble Canada's economic recovery and essential growth.
In the real world, building back better means moving the sorry lot opposite to this side of the House and for the Conservatives to deliver the jobs and the road, bridge, rail line and subway infrastructure that Canada so sorely needs today. As the House knows, my constituents expect the subway element to include the long-delayed Yonge subway extension north through Thornhill.