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National Infrastructure Assessment Gets Underway

On March 16, 2021, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna announced that the government was launching an Engagement Paper on Canada’s first National Infrastructure Assessment, entitled “Building the Canada We Want in 2050.” The assessment will look at three main priorities:

- Assessing Canada’s infrastructure needs and establishing a long-term vision.

- Improving coordination among infrastructure owners and funders.

- Determining the best ways to fund and finance infrastructure.

The assessment is based on a similar assessment that was launched in the United Kingdom in 2018, with the British government publishing its National Infrastructure Strategy in November 2020. The British assessment came out with eight objectives, including the following: 

- Nationwide full-fiber broadband by 2033

- Half the UK’s power coming from renewables by 2030

- Three-quarters of plastic packaging recycled by 2030

- £43 billion of stable long-term transport funding for cities 

- Infrastructure to support close to 100% new electric car and van sales by 2030.

Canada’s assessment will likely conclude with similar goals and recommendations. The government has stated that the final report will help identify Canada’s evolving needs and priorities in the built environment and help the government undertake long-term planning toward future net-zero emissions. The government has already made broadband expansion a priority, especially with the recent $1 billion increase in funding to the Universal Broadband Fund announced in the current budget. Furthermore, the government supports renewable energy, extended producer responsibility for plastics and increased funding for public transit projects.

AED will be submitting its recommendations before the June 30 deadline, but much of the advice will be rooted in communications AED has delivered to the government over the past year. For example, the latest Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, released in 2019, found that nearly 40% of roads and bridges are in fair, poor or deplorable condition. Combined with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that the Investing in Canada Plan is lagging by over $2 billion in infrastructure investments, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it’s clear that a new system is needed. This is why AED has advocated for investments to be allocated in earlier years and for the federal government to take a leadership role with provinces and municipalities to create a better system that efficiently delivers infrastructure investments.

This message, as well as others, is what AED will deliver through its submission of recommendations. AED continues to support all forms of infrastructure, from roads and bridges to renewable energy to public transit. Whenever shovels are in the ground, the construction industry is working and AED members can support infrastructure projects through the sale and rental of heavy equipment. As Canada plans toward 2050, the difficulties that have plagued infrastructure program after infrastructure program in delivering investments must be overcome. This assessment has the potential to plan out a clear and consistent future, but efficient and stable investments must support it. 

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