Liberals’ 2-year infrastructure plan set to take 5: documents

Government says 793 projects totalling $1.8 billion in federal funds have been granted extensions

Late last year, officials warned that a federal spending spree to repair crumbling roads and water systems could take three years longer than expected to complete, based on internal documents outlining issues with the first tranche of cash in the federal government’s infrastructure program.

The federal government had originally hoped to have cities and provinces complete $5.4 billion in transit and water system work by this March, but quickly realized that more time was needed.

A “secret” fall briefing note to Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, says delays hampered a large number of construction projects, requiring that the deadline be extended as far as March 2021.

The heavily blacked-out document predicted the majority of water and transit projects “would require extensions not only for a third year, but beyond into a fourth year (i.e. 2019-20) and fifth year (i.e. 2020-21),” referencing the federal fiscal years in brackets.

Sohi agreed to a blanket deadline extension to March 2020, turning what was to be a two-year stimulus program into a four-year plan.

He said the decision to grant extra time to 2020, instead of 2021, was based on the expected cash flow for projects and the ability for construction companies to handle all the extra work.

“This is not about that projects are being delayed, it’s about taking a little longer to complete those projects or taking a little longer to have the buses manufactured because of construction and manufacturing capacity,” Sohi said in an interview from Edmonton.

“From our perspective, we made a commitment to build and rebuild infrastructure and focus on the repairs in phase 1 and … we are achieving the results we intended to achieve, but we also want to give flexibility.”

As of Friday, the federal government had approved more than 3,400 water and transit projects with a combined federal contribution valued at almost $4.2 billion. Of that money, federal coffers had only doled out about $175.6 million to date, based on figures available on the Infrastructure Canada website.

Federal dollars flow once cities and provinces submit receipts for reimbursement, often creating a lag between when work takes place and when the federal money is spent.

In some cases, the federal government won’t receive receipts until a project is completely done. In other cases, projects are delayed because of labour strife, bad weather or other factors beyond Ottawa’s control.

The government says 793 projects representing about $1.8 billion in federal contributions have been granted individual extensions from Sohi. Between those extensions, and delays in filing expense claims, federal officials last year decided to shift more than $2 billion in planned spending to future years.

Provincial and municipal officials say that the time needed to go through the funding approval process contributed to the delays.

Having officials vet the details of each proposal before getting federal approval for funding meant some cities put off breaking ground until they knew federal funding would come their way.

“We heard loud and clear from some municipalities that they were struggling to meet two pieces of criteria: timeline requirements and a provision that would require municipalities to incur 60 per cent of their costs by March 31st, 2018,” said Alex Benac, a spokesman for Ontario Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli.

The extra time and removal of the local spending requirement, which Chiarelli asked for in September, has given cities “much-needed time to get shovels in the ground and keep their projects on track according to a more generous, achievable timeline,” Benac said.

Federal and provincial officials say the lessons learned from the first phase of the program will be used in designing the second phase.

Both sides want funding agreements for the second, longer and more lucrative phase of infrastructure spending signed by March.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Annual Heritage Day celebration highlights Terrace history, culture

Over 30 vendors displayed various vintage and historic items from the city’s past on Feb.17 in the Sportsplex Banquet Room.

Terrace River Kings win playoffs

Defeating Williams Lake Stampeders, the team now heads to the Coy Cup for the fourth year in a row

First annual Valentines Day Memorial Walk to honor missing and murdered Indigenous people held in Terrace

Mayor Carol Leclerc and RCMP Cst. Angela Rabut joined members of the Radek family and walkers on Feb. 14 from the Chill Soda Shop on Highway 16 to the Tempo Gas Station.

Most Highway 16 closures for avalanches in years after multiple dumps of snow

Highway 16 has had four closures between Terrace and Prince Rupert due to 35 mile avalanche area

Thrilling finish to 59th All Native Tournament

Kitamaat, Hydaburg, Port Simpson and Kitkatla win championships in 2018 All Native Tournament

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

SAR suspends search for missing man at Sun Peaks

RCMP will continue to search for a missing man near Kamloops but SAR has suspended their role

Lottery will help save children’s lives

Each ticket gets you a chance to win a lot of money, while helping a lot of kids

B.C. RCMP officer officially cleared in car wash shooting incident

A report found the Salmon Arm officer fired 14 bullets at the man’s truck

Interest in Canadian Armed Forces remains high

Canada seeks about 5,000 recruits each year for its regular forces of about 68,000

Rules reviewed to keep drug money out of B.C. real estate

Investigator looking at loans as well as casinos, David Eby says

VIDEO: B.C. deer caught obeying traffic signs

A herd of deer in Fernie, B.C. is getting attention online after stopping for a stop sign

Petition wants fundraiser dropped for family of man cleared in Boushie’s death

Group says GoFundMe is profiting from the young Indigenous man’s death

Most Read