Ontario government is holding up infrastructure plan funding: Oliver

TORONTO – Finance Minister Joe Oliver says the Ontario government is causing delays in the federal government’s plan to devote nearly $11 billion to infrastructure investments in the province over the coming years.

Oliver said Monday that he was still waiting for the Liberal government to submit its list of preferred infrastructure projects under the Building Canada Plan, which is designed to give predictable long-term funding to provinces and territories.

In a speech at a public-private partnership conference, Oliver said provincial governments must submit their list of priority projects before the money can roll out as part of an 11-year funding plan.

“Unfortunately we are experiencing a delay under the provincial-territorial component of the Building Canada Plan,” he told the conference in Toronto.

“The Government of Ontario has yet to put forward its submission. We hope to receive it soon.”

The federal government doesn’t have an official deadline for submissions, although Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba have put forth their lists of preferred projects.

The Ontario government has been “working diligently” to produce a list of priority projects, though officials have called on the federal government to increase infrastructure funding, said Ontario Economic Development and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid.

The Liberals promise to spend $130 billion on infrastructure over a decade — including $29 billion for public transit and transportation projects. They also plan $2.5 billion in corporate grants to lure and keep businesses in the province and $1 billion to build a transportation route to the Ring of Fire mineral deposit in northern Ontario.

Duguid said the federal government’s commitment to spend $70 billion across the entire country is “short-changing provinces.”

“The federal minister’s complaints about the slowness of the system, which he set up in the first place, are just a smokescreen for the fact they’re just not investing enough in infrastructure.”

Advocates of public-private partnerships, which the industry calls “P3s,” see them as a cost-effective way to deliver infrastructure to the benefit of taxpayers, governments and businesses. Critics have argued that they aren’t necessarily good for the public sector over the long term even if they bring down government costs in the short term.

“Our government’s commitment to P3s has never been stronger,” Oliver said Monday.

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