The week, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) released an analysis of the most recent Liberal Government budget.
While sharp and measured non-partisan budget analysis is common from the PBO, one particular fact from the report has generated considerable attention on Parliament Hill.
The conclusion from the PBO was, and I quote it directly:
“Budget 2018 provides an incomplete account of the changes to the Government’s $186.7 billion infrastructure spending plan. PBO requested the new plan but it does not exist. Roughly one-quarter of the funding allocated for infrastructure from 2016-17 to 2018-19 will lapse. Both legacy and new infrastructure programs are prone to large lapses.”
As I have mentioned in previous MP reports, it is not necessarily uncommon for some budgeted funds to lapse or to remain unspent for a variety of reasons.
What is unique in this situation, is the finding from the PBO that an appropriate infrastructure plan does not exist at all.
The Liberal Government has been subsequently asked about this in Question Period and to date has not provided any fomal documented Infrastructure Plan.
This raises serious concerns on how $186 billion is proposed to be borrowed and spent without a proper plan or how those funds are best invested for maximum return over the next twelve years.
After promising an Infrastructure Plan during the 2015 election, how can there be no plan in place?
This is a question only the Liberal Government can answer.
A February 2018 analysis by the Globe and Mail newspaper indicated that Liberals may be playing old fashioned “pork barrel” type politics as 64 per cent of infrastructure spending to date has been in areas of Canada where the Liberals are typically elected.
It would be interesting to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Prime Minister’s office for more analysis on the political involvement in the decision making process. However, despite the Prime Minister’s election promise that his own office and any Minister’s office would be fully subject to FOI/ATIP legislation, this has not occurred.
For the record, I am not suggesting the Liberals are playing favoritism with how and where they fund infrastructure projects. Although the data from the Globe and Mail reporting raises some serious questions, there may well be legitimate answers.
Where I do fault the Liberal Government is, without a proper and coherent Infrastructure Plan along with the ability to FOI supporting documents, Canadians are largely being left in the dark about this process and how it works.
Considering that it will be Canadians shouldering this $186 billion of debt, in my view, more information is required.
My question this week is about transparency:
Do you believe this Liberal Government is living up to the transparency commitments they made during the election and does this concern you?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna (specific boundaries), West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.