Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO), a non-profit association representing 200 engineering firms, officially applauded Ontario’s commitment to long-term infrastructure planning in yesterday’s budget and The Big Move. “In spite of temptations to think only of the short term, this government has released its third, consecutive budget that commits to billions in infrastructure spending,” said Barry Steinberg, Chief Executive Officer of Consulting Engineers of Ontario.
“This year’s infrastructure commitment includes $13.5 billion. This is an infrastructure budget from an infrastructure government,” he said. “The budget bravely takes steps in the right direction.”
“It’s now clear that the government is a champion of long-term spending on infrastructure and transportation,” he added, “but the big news is The Big Move, the government’s re-affirmation that it’s sticking with the $50-billion, infrastructure-transportation plan by Metrolinx, the province’s regional transportation agency.”
“The budget promises to increase investments in transit and lay the foundation for major initiatives in The Big Move,” Steinberg said. “Also, yesterday morning, Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure and Minister of Transportation, said that his government is moving forward with The Big Move.”
“So far, three levels of governments have found $16 billion out of the $50 billion needed for The Big Move,” Steinberg said. “Where will the remaining $34 billion come from?” The budget provided only hints. One source is a network of road tolls, announced in yesterday’s budget, but tolls would likely raise only $25 to $45 million, according to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. On June 1, Metrolinx will release suggestions for more sources of revenue.
“We’re hopeful that Metrolinx and Ontario will stick with a long-term view,” Steinberg said. “Chronic under-investment has created a massive infrastructure deficit in this province. Roads, bridges, transit systems and other critical infrastructure in Ontario are assets owned by the people of Ontario, and like all assets, they require investment and re-investment over the long term.”
“When you look at improving transportation and infrastructure, we’re in for a marathon, not a sprint,” he added.
The Trades weigh in
“[The] provincial budget is good news for construction businesses, workers, and their families,” said Patrick Dillon, Business Manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. “The $35 billion infrastructure commitment over the next three years will help sustain 100,000 jobs each year, and we are pleased to see that infrastructure investments for 2013/14 are projected at over $13 billion. This signifies a strong commitment to our industry.”
The budget also contains balanced provisions to generate new revenue tools for province-wide highway expansions and public transit, which, according to Dillon, is “a good start, as we need to look at workable revenue streams that will relieve traffic congestion and get people moving.” Transportation infrastructure accounts for 43 percent of total infrastructure investments in Ontario.
“The real challenge will be to ensure that as projects get underway, underemployed Ontarians have opportunities to participate and succeed in the infrastructure economy,” noted Dillon, adding that “we must work with business and government to attract more youth, Aboriginals, and women to the trades, and to make sure that they receive the best training possible.”
“Proposed changes to Ontario Works will also start to lift people out of poverty, as they will be able to save more of their hard-earned money which will help elevate them towards Ontario’s middle-class,” observed Dillon.
Other budget highlights include measures to eliminate the $9.8 billion deficit by 2017/18, efforts to close tax loopholes, and securing funds to support youth employment. “Overall, this is a progressive budget with concrete measures that will continue to spur economic growth and strengthen Ontario’s workforce.”
“In the last provincial election, Ontario chose to have a minority government looking for results for people. This budget produces those results and I would encourage all three political parties to live up to the expectations of Ontarians,” concluded Dillon.