This morning, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave the sixth update on his government’s two-year stimulus program. While most media outlets are reporting that he said the feds would absolutely not extend the funding beyond the strict March 2011 deadline, that’s not exactly what he said.
Flaherty said, “In the short term, the government is focused on finishing the job of implementing the Economic Action Plan. We will also continue to monitor economic development closely and will take action as necessary to protect the economic recovery.”
Earlier, in an interview with CTV, Flaherty said, “We’re encouraging them to get completed on time; that was what everyone said they would do.”
Still not exactly a “no.”
The Ontario Public Works Association and the Ontario Water Works Association are sending a letter out this week to federal and provincial ministries asking that they consider extending the deadline. The argument is that the funding deadline presents some challenges that are making it difficult for some municipalities to cash in.
For one thing, reimbursement is made only when invoices are paid, not when costs incurred. That means it may not be possible for municipalities to have received, processed and paid invoices for work completed in March, 2011 by April 15. There are also amounts held back as per the requirements of the Construction Lien Act.
The associations argue that some projects won’t be finished by march 2011 despite best efforts having been made by municipalities and supporting consultants, contractors and suppliers. In those cases, they ask that the federal government provide some leeway.
As for the actual update, Flaherty reported that the Economic Action Plan is on track to deliver a further $22 billion in federal stimulus spending in 2010-11, and that all of the jobs lost during the recession in Canada have now been recouped.
Flaherty said that over 22,500 or 97 per cent of Economic Action Plan projects are underway or have been completed. He made the announcement from the Port of Montreal—a project moving forward with help from $17 million in stimulus funding (and a contender for our upcoming Top 100 list of infrastructure projects).