PBO report follows the money flowing from Liberals’ infrastructure program

PBO targets slow infrastructure spending

OTTAWA — The Liberal government has brushed off renewed criticism of the slow movement of billions in new infrastructure spending that threatens to put economic growth projections at risk.

In a report released Thursday, the parliamentary budget office said that of the $13.6 billion in infrastructure money announced in last year’s budget and slated to be spent through March 2018, departments have only identified $4.6 billion worth of projects.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the government is confident cities and provinces will complete projects by the end of next March, with the exception of a few whose funding flows in 2019 and beyond, even as the budget watchdog warned of “a significant gap” to meeting that target.

The timing of spending is critical to federal economic projections and the ensuing effect on federal finances.

The Liberals’ first budget predicted that the infrastructure work would boost the economy by 0.6 per cent over two years, but to meet that target, the government would have to see roughly $11 billion worth of federally funded work done by next March.

Sohi said the federal government has had to prod provincial officials to finalize the list of projects they want funded. Federal officials are still poring over project proposals with the expectation that the government will approve them for funding over the coming months.

Sohi himself has approved about 1,200 of the almost 3,900 projects being funded through the Liberals’ infrastructure plan, but the PBO report says that getting details of the spending has proven difficult.

The budget office said the Liberals have not provided any performance measurement framework to make sure the money is meeting its intended goals. Nor have all 31 departments and agencies responsible for the money provided enough information about where the money is being spent, the report said.

“We do have reporting milestones to which they have to abide by and we will be seeing some more information come our way,” Sohi said.

The report suggests the lack of information may become worse when the Liberals launch their promised infrastructure bank, that would use public dollars to leverage private investment into local infrastructure projects. As it stands, the report says, it is difficult to determine the actual financial risk to federal finances for loan guarantees that will be part of the bank.

The report is the latest from the budget watchdog that has raised concerns about the pace of infrastructure spending, which often doesn’t happen as quickly as governments expect. Federal dollars only flow once project proponents submit receipts for reimbursement, often leaving a lag between when work takes place and when infrastructure money is actually spent.

The Liberals plan to spend $82.8 billion from their infrastructure program over the next decade, not including the more than $100 billion to be spent over the same time from previous infrastructure programs.

The first phase of the program was designed as a short-term stimulus package to repair aging and crumbling infrastructure in cities and on reserves and provide cash to local officials to plan for larger projects that would be eligible for funding on the second and more lucrative phase, the details of which will be unveiled in this year’s budget.

— Follow @jpress on Twitter.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

TELUS works with YMCA for Okanagan youth

A four week employment program will assist at-risk youth

First recreational cannabis store in Okanagan has quiet opening near Lake Country

Indigenous Bloom has opened on Okanagan Indian Band land

New Lake Country school sports fields to include track and field oval

School rec facilities to be developed on former Aspen Grove golf course

Hail the mighty Caesar: Kelowna Caesar creators expand their shop

Simp’s Serious Syrups has opened a store on High Road

Freezing rain, some snow forecasted for Okanagan-Similkameen-Shuswap

Environment Canada forecasting freezing rain and snow for much of the region

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Remorse high for Vernon man sentenced for car surfing death

Driver of car that killed friend who was car surfing gets nine months in jail

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

AC/DC tribute ready to rock Okanagan

Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton stops on LA Bonfire tour

B.C. government extends coastal log export rules for six months

Premier John Horgan promises reform at loggers’ convention

South Okanagan RCMP searching for man accused of sex offences

Ivan Glen Winchester, is wanted in B.C. for historical sexual offences

B.C. pair accused of ‘honour-killing’ in India to be extradited within days

Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha are accused of conspiracy to commit murder

Netflix rejects request to remove Lac-Megantic images from ‘Bird Box’

At least two shows on Netflix’s Canadian platform briefly use actual footage of the 2013 tragedy

Most Read