OTTAWA – The Opposition Conservatives are hoping to use their new sway in a minority Parliament to force an audit of the Liberals’ infrastructure program.
The Tories have harshly criticized the government’s decade-long plan for roads, bridges, transit and water systems in municipalities large and small, slated to cost more than $180 billion.
The program has had some hiccups, with money moving out of the federal treasury more slowly than anticipated, sometimes because of issues beyond the government’s control.
The Conservatives are asking the House of Commons to instruct the auditor general to review the program and report back in a year.
The auditor can heed parliamentary requests for audits that aren’t already planned but can also choose not to.
Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux said the Liberals have so far only talked a good game about helping cities improve and expand their aging infrastructure.
“We’ve seen time and time again that this government says that they’re building a lot, but we just don’t see the actual projects on the ground, or shovels in the ground,” he said. “So what we want to do is involve the auditor general to do a full review.”
Infrastructure Canada data shows that to date, more than 52,000 projects have been approved across dozens of programs, worth more than $57.5 billion in federal funding. Of those, 38,810 of them are underway, and federal coffers have paid out nearly $22.7 billion for them.
Federal infrastructure funding is regularly subject to delays because funds only flow once receipts are filed, which causes a lag between when work occurs and money is paid out.
Province can also slow work by not endorsing projects for federal consideration.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s mandate letter calls on her to focus on “the successful, timely delivery” of investments.
The letter also said provinces and territories will have to finalize their long-term project lists by the end of 2021 or see the money sent directly to cities through the federal gas-tax fund – meaning they would lose control of what the cash is used for, and the ability to use it for provincial projects.
©2020 The Canadian Press