Municipalities across Canada need stable, long term funding to help replace crumbling roads, aging waste water treatment plants and to build vibrant community centres, libraries and green spaces.
The price tag attached to addressing our infrastructure needs is 126 billion dollars. Federal funding has been stagnant recently, and this year’s federal budget needs to commit significant increased funding for a long term, predictable and flexible public infrastructure.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is inexplicably moving towards tying all federal infrastructure funding to a condition that they be private-public partnerships.
He is tying the hands of all municipalities in dire need of support to maintain crumbling infrastructure, and forcing them into a decision that doesn’t make a lot of financial or governance sense.
From the corruptions scandal at McGill’s University Hospital to the City of Hamilton waste water treatment plant which was put back into public hands due to cost over runs, cities across Canada have learned firsthand the significant downsides of public private partnerships infrastructure models.
Many municipalities are saying no to P3s. And, they should be able to say no, and still get federal support. Municipalities deserve options for financing and access to funds without being forced to engage in public private partnerships and privatization of public services.
The infrastructure piece of the budget is key because public investment in infrastructure will not only help address Canada’s over $126 billion infrastructure deficit, but also provide needed stimulus to the economy and create jobs.
Our economy is growing at half the rate of previous recoveries with more than 1.3 million Canadians unemployed because of cuts to public services, which have increased unemployment, suppressed wages and weakened vital public services Canadians need.
In light of Canada’s current economic situation it is critical that this budget does not take action that will further erode workers’ wages and public services. Now is not the time for more austerity cuts to government spending. In Budget 2013, Canada needs strategic investment that stimulates, strengthens and diversifies the economy and supports workers that have been hit hard by recession.
The lead up to the budget has seen the Harper government making a lot of noise about adjusting the labour market with restructuring of training programs. But we have to remember that there are more than five unemployed Canadians for every job vacancy.
We need a federal government focused on growing the economy, creating jobs, raising wages and helping working families in difficult economic times. We need a government that invests in programs that help working families, expanded Canadian Pension Plan, national child care funding, commitments to public health care and rolling back cuts to EI. And we need progressive tax measures to fund these projects, which include closing tax loopholes and restoring tax rates on corporations.
This is the type of budget that workers in Canada need. CUPE will be watching carefully to ensure that we hold the government accountable for the budget they deliver and the impact it will have on Canada.
Paul Moist is the National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.