Mayors Urge Ongoing Infrastructure Funding
OTTAWA—Canada’s mayors are highlighting the importance of infrastructure and calling for long-term and increased funding, even as the federal government is preparing for a March 4 budget and years of restraint to tackle a looming deficit following a flood of stimulus spending.
The mayors are not alone. Echoing their call is a global survey released Monday reporting that public sector officials and private sector executives from dozens of countries say that the stimulus is only a start.
Government effectiveness and funding remain the top challenges to infrastructure development, public and private leaders in the infrastructure field say.
The survey was the third in a series of infrastructure surveys commissioned over the past year by Switzerland-based tax and accounting giant KPMG International.
Respondents from the two sectors also shared the view that politicization of project priorities is a major obstacle to effective infrastructure development.
Both sectors are calling for increased accountability and transparency, better-trained infrastructure agencies, greater public-private partnership, and a long-term infrastructure investment strategy.
The survey was released on the heels of an Atlantic Mayors Congress meeting last Friday at which the mayors urged the federal government to stay the course on its local infrastructure funding as it works to eliminate the country’s budget deficit, which stands at $56 billion this fiscal year.
“Most Canadians believe investments in local infrastructure are among the most important we can make,” the congress said in a statement.
“Canadians want these investments to continue, and we agree, because they are effective and important,” the mayors said, citing a recent Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) poll that found that 69 percent of Canadians rank local infrastructure investments second only to health care in importance.
The poll also showed that 96 percent of Canadians want the government to maintain or increase funding for local infrastructure.
The Conservative government’s $4 billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund gives money to provincial and municipal governments for projects that must finish by March 31, 2011.
But the Atlantic mayors say that this deadline “could prevent the completion of important projects in the region and shut the flow of important stimulus before our economy has fully recovered.”
They are asking for the deadline to be extended to Dec. 31, 2011.
The mayors of Canada’s 22 largest cities—members of the FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus—have expressed the same concerns and are asking the federal government to continue working with cities to meet long-term infrastructure needs.
“Together with the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, we’re co-funding infrastructure projects that will create more than half the 220,000 jobs promised in the Economic Action Plan,” said Carl Zehr, chair of the caucus and mayor of Kitchener, Ontario, in a statement.
The stimulus program is “helping cities build and repair the roads, bridges, public transit and water systems that are the backbone of our economy and quality of life,” said Mayor Pat Fiacco of Regina, Saskatchewan.
“Now we need to bring all partners together at a national infrastructure summit to turn those investments into a down payment on our long-term infrastructure needs.”
Public-Private Partnerships Demonstrate Efficiency Gains
While the mayors emphasized partnership among all levels of government, public-private sector partnership (P3) was the subject of a Conference Board of Canada (CBOC) report released last week.
The CBOC conducted a pan-Canadian assessment of P3s for infrastructure investment projects carried out since 2004.
The report found that the P3 projects were delivered quicker and at a lower cost compared to conventionally contracted projects. They also provided a higher service level.
The report advised vigorous assessment to determine whether P3 will be the most efficient option. It noted that P3s are inappropriate for projects such as renovations or extensions to existing facilities where it is difficult to distinguish defects in the new work from latent defects in the existing structure.
In addition, the report said the P3 procurement process is considerably more transparent than that of equivalent-scale conventional procurement.