SUMMERSIDE – Money delayed means jobs lost. That’s how some people in the P.E.I. construction business see delays in moving money under the federal government’s New Build Canada Fund.
“We’re losing men to the West,” said Robert Duffy owner of Duffy Construction in Kinkora. “We don’t need any other reasons for them not to stay here.”
The federal infusion of dollars into the provincial infrastructure programs is the lifeblood for jobs and construction across Canada, but this year those funds are slow in coming, affecting projects and jobs.
“We’re always cautious in trying to keep these programs renewed,” Duffy said. “But
we’re finding the numbers are down this year for work, provincially. And the municipalities don’t have the money to spend because money is not coming from the feds.”
The New Build Canada Fund has been touted by the federal government as the biggest program ever, but a closer look at the funding breakdown shows the money is heavily back loaded, with the majority of the dollars not being distributed until 2019.
“That’s no good for municipalities,” Duffy said. “Municipalities rely on federal and provincial funding because there’s not enough people around to keep the taxes flowing and municipalities are always short of money. Everybody knew the program was heavily loaded to the backend and 2014 was not going to see hardly any projects moving, if any.”
“We had very little money last year because of the recession,” he said. “The stimulus of the old Build Canada Fund was allowed to be accelerated so we ran out of our money and this program’s a year late getting going. So, we have relatively had two years without money flowing.”
Rick Kennedy, owner of Curran and Briggs Ltd in Summerside said, “A few short years ago in 2009-2010, when there was a lot of money coming down, it turned into banner years. Of course we’re pretty small potatoes down here in our little P.E.I. but at the same time, it amounts to a pretty big amount of money.”
Kennedy said the definition of infrastructure is very broad today.
“It’s going to be used to finance stuff like building fire stations,” he said.
He said for the past while infrastructure consisted of new rinks and other facilities not necessarily just roads and bridges.”
Kennedy the industry saw the writing on the wall with the new program.
“We were told early, and it was confirmed about a month ago, we’re not expecting a lot coming down this year,” he said. “It’s certainly not going to impact us. I don’t expect to have any surplus money kicking around this year. We’re going and try and equal last year.”
Had the New Build Canada Fund dollars been released in March as was projected, it would have made a difference.
“If this program was to start it would mean we’d probably have to buy new equipment, we’d need more people,” Kennedy said. “That’s what we were told in the winter and it was just confirmed a month ago, the money’s just not ready to be doled out yet.
It’s there. It’s something they can talk about but it’s really not benefiting anybody just yet.”