Easter cries foul
SUMMERSIDE – The province is offering little hope to the construction industries and Island municipalities that any work will be undertaken this year through the federal government’s New Build Canada Fund.
© Guardian photo
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Robert Vessey
The New Build Canada Fund a $14-billion fund to support projects of national, regional and local significance that promotes economic growth, job creation and productivity, has not yet come to the provinces.
“Right now, we’re in negotiations with the federal government and Minister (Denis) Lebel’s (minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs) office and as I said before, this is a 10-year program so we’re trying to get the best deal we can for Islanders,” said P.E.I. Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey. “It’s taking a bit of time.”
The P.E.I. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association complained that their workload is down nearly 40 per cent because of the delays in acquiring the federal money.
“It’s unfortunate when that happens but the road builders, they're an industry, a very important industry to the province,” Vessey said. “The government gives them as much work as we can. Our capital budget this year is down a little bit sometimes you hope that the private sector can kick in and help in areas. We’ll just work with the road builders the best we possibly can.”
The minister said there will be projects undertaken in 2015 but offered little hope that any will be started this construction season.
“I know that next year, when this agreement does get signed, there will be projects up and running,” he said. Maybe we’ll get some in before the end of the season this year. Hopefully we will but time will tell. In a perfect world we’d have the program up and running and going right now. We’re doing the best we can in the negotiations to make sure we get the best possible plan for the taxpayers of Prince Edward Island.”
Federal Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea said the issue is in the hands of the province.
“Minister Lebel is in discussion with Mr. Vessey’s office,” Shea said. “The province will be administrating this fund. The parameters are set out for the fund. As soon as the province is ready, and I assume they’ll be ready soon to take applications, and get their priority list into the federal government. “The set their capital transportation budget.”
Malpeque MP Wayne Easter doesn’t buy the reasons being given for the delay in getting the New Build Canada Fund program going.
“There are a lot of problems with that,” he said.
Easter said the Harper government wants to say that this is the biggest infrastructure in Canadian history
“The problem is the funding for this program is a pittance from now until 2019,” he said. “The funding does not get back to the funding that was in place last year until 2019. They haven’t worked out arrangements with the provinces yet and how it will be funded. It’s all back-end loaded. There will be one election, possibly two before the funding they announce really kicks in on this program.”
Easter said the public is being led to believe that there’s lots of money being spent on infrastructure but it’s all back-end loaded, meaning the bulk of the money won’t be distributed unto 2019.
“That’s the way this crew confuses the public in what they’re really doing,” he said. “The reason they’re doing it this way is that they’re solely focused on balancing the deficit, balancing the books, getting the deficit back in order, a problem they themselves created, while at the same time they are creating an infrastructure deficit in the country and leaving the province as and the municipalities in the lurch.”
Easter said the funding will remain in place but when it gets handed out is still not known
“The problem there is the provinces they’re fearful to speak out and lay out the facts because the federal government might then pull back,” he said. “The money won’t be lost. It will still be there. It will be spent sometime but for the municipalities, especially for the municipalities, they should have shovels in the ground now for these projects. The construction companies that are doing some of these projects, they need to know what projects they have for the employment of people. It backs everything up and creates disruption.”