OSPE calls on Governments to prioritize “shovel worthy” infrastructure projects, not just “shovel ready” ones

The Federal Government has recently made public their intentions to spend billions of dollars in infrastructure, as a way to stimulate the Canadian economy during these times.

Infrastructure and Communities Minister, the Hon. Catherine McKenna stated on May 12, that the government will allocate $3 billion of existing infrastructure funds towards a new COVID-19 funding stream. Minister McKenna mentioned that this is “not a new stimulus program but an attempt to be smarter and more efficient with existing programs.”

The federal government currently has Integrated Bilateral Agreements (IBAs) with each province and territory. These agreements were established in 2018 with the purpose of flowing federal money to provincial and territorial infrastructure priorities across four buckets:

  • green infrastructure
  • public transit
  • community infrastructure and
  • remote/northern infrastructure

Minister McKenna announced that the government is setting aside 10% of the funds into a 5th stream focused on COVID-related infrastructure.

Ontario’s IBA, for example, represents $11.8 billion over 10 years. $1.18 billion is being shifted to COVID-19 infrastructure, leaving $10.6 billion for the existing streams.

COVID-19 Infrastructure Stream

Priority projects under the new stream includes retrofitting healthcare facilities and schools, particularly with a view to allowing for physical distancing, and good hygienic practices. The government is also prioritizing projects to help people find ways to get outside safely, such as new or better paths, bike lanes, and nature trails.

Changes to the infrastructure agreements will allow the federal government to contribute up to 80 per cent of the cost of these COVID-related projects, up from the usual 50 per cent threshold. This provision will allow cash-strapped municipalities to more readily participate by redesigning projects to meet the criteria to access the program quickly.

Provinces will have to complete work on these projects by the end of the 2021 construction season, with efforts being given to getting projects started this summer.

The Broader Approach

Aside from the new COVID-19 Infrastructure stream, Minister Mckenna noted that the government’s broader goals for its infrastructure programs remain intact. These include electoral promises of investing in public transit, green infrastructure, and high-speed internet access.

OSPE’s Position

OSPE is happy to know that the federal government is still focusing on investing in sustainable infrastructure projects.

To ensure preparedness for future events and build an economy that is strong and benefits all people, it is imperative that new funding allocations provide a sustainable benefit for diverse, future generations by ensuring a targeted focus on building sustainability.

OSPE believes that proper, smart, and prioritized investment in sustainable infrastructure will help alleviate the economic burden the province is facing, while decreasing unemployment rates in several critical sectors of the economy.

Developing a comprehensive project investment pipeline document, which is informed by existing regulated municipal asset management plans, will facilitate the prioritization of early works. These projects are not only “shovel-ready’, but ‘shovel-worthy” and will provide a positive return on investment.

By immediately utilizing these plans to select projects for investment, the province will be able to reduce application timelines and ensure a speedy and safe recovery. This is an important point that OSPE recently communicated during online events with ReNew Magazine and with the Ontario Good Roads Association.

OSPE’s goal is to make sure engineers are put in a position to thrive and lead the economic recovery efforts, as there will be many spin-off benefits from these initiatives that will multiply the recovery investments. Promoting public safety and the environment, while advancing a diverse and inclusive society must also be reflected in government plans moving forward.

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