Budget 2007 is now available online. After a live announcement from Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Monday, many are saying that this is a safe, election-friendly, portfolio. There are substantial investments in Canadian infrastructure, most of which had already been announced. In total, $16 billion in new funding has been promised for infrastructure projects over the next seven years. As part of Advantage Canada, the budget aims to create an “infrastructure advantage” in Canada. $8.8 billion is earmarked for the Building Canada Fund to support investments in the core national highway system, urban transit and water treatment facilities, but no mention is made of a national transit program.
While there is no word on a plan for a national transit program, the tax credit for using public transit is still in-tact. It’s joined by a predictable increase in environmentally-friendly programs and investments, among them a rebate of up to $2,000 per vehicle to buyers of fuel-efficient vehicles and a Green Levy on new fuel-inefficient vehicles. In total, there are 20 initiatives in Budget 2007 to preserve and protect the environment. That will certainly make for some positive press for Harper’s government.
One investment we were expecting that was actually included in the budget is a national public-private partnerships office. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will work in collaboration to set up and manage a national P3 office. $25 million has been allocated, over the next five years, to the new federal office. A $1.25-billion national fund for public-private partnerships will contribute up to 25 per cent of the cost of innovative public-private partnership projects.
The budget states: “The national fund for public-private partnerships, which is a key part of the long-term plan for infrastructure, will encourage the development of the P3 market in Canada. In the case of large projects seeking funding from the Building Canada Fund and the national fund for gateways and border crossings, proponents will also be required to demonstrate that the option of undertaking the project as a public-private partnership has been fully considered. The office’s mandate will have two main objectives: Identifying opportunities and executing public-private partnerships at the federal level, and overseeing the assessment of public-private partnership options for projects seeking funding from federal infrastructure initiatives.
An investment that is not part of the Infrastructure Advantage plan but will affect new projects is $1.3 billion towards knowledge building – that may help to address the skilled labour shortage.
There was no mention of best practices or funding for the National Roundtable on Sustainable Development (NRTSI). So while those who drive hybrids may be pleased, there are many who are far from getting what they expected and what they believe Canada needs.