BURLINGTON – A comprehensive report by the Liberal opposition shows that major
infrastructure stimulus programs intended to create jobs for the unemployed have been distorted into partisan vehicles to benefit Conservative Cabinet Ministers and Conservative MPs.
“The Conservatives have broken their trust with the public,” said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. “At the cost of thousands of Canadians’ jobs, Prime Minister Harper’s government has neglected Canadian families and communities in favour of its own electoral needs.”
“Stephen Harper and his ministers spent the summer engaged in a propaganda campaign that made it appear as though construction was underway – but as our review shows, construction was held up in favour of a political process designed to benefit Conservative MPs.”
The report released today found that as of the beginning of September, just 12 percent of the $4-billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF) was supporting any construction – eight months after it was first announced. A maximum of 4,800 of the intended 40,000 jobs across the country have been created compared to job losses averaging 5,800 a week since January.
Mr. Ignatieff and Liberal Critic for Infrastructure and Communities Gerard Kennedy made their announcement from an open field in Burlington, Ontario, where no progress has been made on a $2.3 million new city park project, and only two of eight local projects have started construction.
The analysis of 946 infrastructure projects shows how Mr. Harper chose a politicized approvals process that favoured Conservative-held ridings over opposition party ridings. In British Columbia, Conservative ridings garnered more than fourteen times as much funds as opposition ridings.
“The Harper government decided to forgo the existing audit, administration and evaluation systems of the Gas Tax Transfer, to ignore the advice of experts, and to overrule the will of Parliament to devise an entirely new program – one that allowed him to control where the money would go,” said Mr. Kennedy.
The review also showed how almost all of Mr. Harper’s summer infrastructure announcements (14 out of 16) were for regular non-stimulus infrastructure projects that either won’t begin for years or that had been planned years before and were long-delayed by the Harper government.
“This Conservative distortion was a cruel trick to play on 114,100 unemployed construction workers and their families who are still waiting for the promised jobs, while the Harper government took their time deciding which projects would be most politically advantageous,” concluded Kennedy.
Office of the Leader of the Opposition
Liberal Infrastructure critic Gerard Kennedy conducted an analysis of 946 infrastructure stimulus projects (out of a total of 1,697 announced) with a “promise value” of over $ 1.1 billion in federal funding.
The report is available online at: http://www.liberal.ca/pdf/docs/240909_inaction_plan.pdf
Here’s what the report found on job creation:
• Eight months after it was announced, less than 1% of all projects have actually received any funds at all from the federal government.
• Only 4,800 of the intended 40,000 jobs across the country have been created.
• Since the January budget, the Harper government’s main job creation fund’s output is a rate of 160 jobs a week, while jobs are being lost at a pace of 5,800 a week.
• Only 12% of the main infrastructure stimulus fund is in construction. Fully 88% of the promised dollars remain stuck in a politicized, red-tape ridden process created by the Harper government. Of this, the equivalent of 9% of funds have reached a pre-construction phase and may yet occur in 2009, leaving 80% in doubt for any construction or jobs this year.
• In its January budget, the Harper government said it would create 190,000 jobs through increased government spending. In June, it said its infrastructure spending would generate between 120,000 and 132,000 jobs. In fact, since January, 174,600 jobs have been lost, 70,900 of them in construction. In total, since last October, 408,400 jobs have been lost, 108,300 of them construction jobs.
Here’s what the report found on partisanship:
• In Ontario, the Conservatives promised 15% more dollars on average to their own ridings ($13.1 million) from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF) and the Recreation Facilities fund (RinC) combined, compared to $11.1 million average for Liberal-held ridings.
• In British Columbia, Conservative ridings garnered more than fourteen times as much funds as opposition ridings ($11.3 million to $800,000) from the ISF.
• In Quebec, Conservative ridings received 2.68 times more projects per riding on average than opposition ridings.
• In the stimulus program for rehabilitation of community and recreation centres, the $500-million RInC, eighteen out of the top twenty ridings by number of projects granted in Ontario are held by Conservatives.
• Industry Minister Tony Clement, the minister responsible for the RInC program in Ontario, gave his own riding the second most projects with 28, four times the provincial average.
• The average RInC grant for Conservative ridings in Ontario was $2.1 million, 33% higher than opposition ridings.
• In the RInC program, Rob Merrifield, Minister of State for Transport secured $1.4million for his riding and Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment secured $1.7 million. These 2 ministers had 2 out of the top 3 ridings receiving funding, 5-6 times the average riding funding.
• In the $1.2-billion Building Canada Fund, in the Communities component for cities and towns under 100,000 population, Conservative ridings in 5 electorally competitive provinces (NS, Ontario, PEI, BC, MB) received an average of $8.8 million, compared to just $5 million for opposition-held areas.