Blame game just another blow to economy

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“Show me the money,” the popular quote from Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character Rod Tidwell in the 1990s Hollywood blockbuster ‘Jerry Maguire’ is as popular today in certain circles as it was nearly 20 years ago when the film was first released.

The difference now, however, is who is saying it.

Today, it’s the road construction industry on Prince Edward Island.

Industry officials say they are hurting because the federal government, despite all its claims of increased infrastructure money for the provinces, has back-end loaded its funding committments, with most of the cash in the multi-year pledge coming years down the road.

The schedule for the release of cash from the New Build Canada Fund is, according to local builders, killing the usually robust summer constructions season on P.E.I. – and likely elsewhere as well.

Joe Murphy, executive director of the P.E.I. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, said jobs are being lost because the work cannot be done without the federal infrastructure money.

Murphy is estimating that, to-date, construction activity here is down as much as 40 per cent. He went so far as to say one contractor who had 40 employees in 2012, and 29 workers in 2013, only expects to be issuing pay cheques to about 16 people this year.

With news like that this is clearly no time for another political shell game.

If Murphy’s assertions are correct, local economies may be in big trouble by the end of the summer.

Municipal officials, the local level of government often behind community infrastructure projects, said the cash from Ottawa was supposed to start flowing to the province on March 31. That date has come and gone and any expected torrent of construction money could best be described as a trickle.

Someone had better open the tap soon, as Murphy said they are running out of time.

To make matters worse, Islanders normally hired for such work are leaving for the West, and Murphy said they won’t come back for just a couple of months pay.

It’s more than just pay cheques for road workers at stake. No building means no spending – supplies and materials? Nope. Gas and equipment? Nope.

There will be a trickle down effect.

It’s time for the three levels of government to come clean with the public and the road builders about what is really going on, and time also to stop playing the political blame game. “It’s them, not us,” isn’t helping, or fooling, anyone.

You were elected to represent Islanders, it’s now time to start doing it.

 

Organizations: New Build Canada Fund, Heavy Construction Association

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, P.E.I. Road, Ottawa

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