2 December 2010
Thank you very much everybody and thank you, Chuck, for that kind introduction.
I also want to extend greetings to my colleagues. In addition to Minister Strahl, Minister of Transport, Communities and Infrastructure we have Minister Tony Clement, Minister of Industry and Bob Dechert, Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Erindale and Parliamentary Secretary for Justice.
There are also various stakeholders with us today, but I particularly want to thank the folks from Sheridan College for hosting us a bit earlier. I’ve just come from a tour of the new Mississauga campus of Sheridan College. It’s going to be a great building.
I should say I especially enjoyed the view of the city’s new and changing skyline. It’s great to be reminded of what this new skyline represents – growth, jobs and opportunity for years to come in one of Canada’s largest and most diverse cities.
Sheridan’s new Mississauga campus is an especially exciting development. It’s providing great new jobs right now in design, engineering and construction. When completed it’s going to help Canadians, including many new Canadians, to obtain the skills they need to keep getting great new jobs in the years ahead.
In short, the project has been a perfect candidate for the infrastructure stimulus funding we’re providing through Canada’s economic plan.
But the project is not quite finished, although I’m told it’s running close to the timeline. But that is what brings us to why we’re here this morning.
Early in 2009, in response to the worst global economic crisis since the Second World War, our government launched the first phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.
Part of that plan has been temporary support for struggling industries and assistance for workers who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own. For many Canadians these actions made a great difference during their temporary loss of employment.
However, the largest part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan has been a suite of major infrastructure initiatives aimed at stimulating the economy. Through carefully chosen investments, we sought to preserve existing jobs, create new ones and leave behind things of lasting value for the Canadian economy.
History and academia suggest a range of possible ways to do this. But in retrospect, I must say that we could not have chosen a better path.
Rather than create a new federal bureaucracy or even a new set of federal programs, we chose to work with others. We understand that provincial governments and city halls are far more likely to know and understand the needs of their own citizens than even the most well-intentioned central planner. And frankly, they have a far greater interest in the outcome.
We thus entered into partnership arrangements with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, with colleges and universities, and in a few cases, with private agencies. By levering their energies, their visionary plans, their enthusiasm, and by simply moving up the start dates for capital investments that were already in an advanced state of preparation, our government and its partners found an immediate national market for goods and services. We gave our partners two construction seasons to get their work done.
Now the verdict is in. This phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan has worked. Around 23,000 projects are complete or underway from coast to coast to coast.
Many of them are thanks to the unparalleled cooperation of our provincial and municipal partners. And a huge number of them were kick-started by the promise of federal support.
As a result billions of dollars immediately started moving people and products, have kept them moving and will keep them moving for some months to come.
We all saw what happened. We have had five consecutive months of growth and jobs have been created.
Ladies and gentlemen, compared to July 2009, there are almost 430,000 new jobs for Canadians. Almost half a million more Canadians are working now than were working a little over a year and a half ago.
And I can also tell you today that we expect that most, in fact nearly 90 per cent of infrastructure projects will be done by the ambitious timeline that we set.
In other words, ladies and gentlemen, we have substantially met our objectives. Our partners, confident of our financial backing, fronted Canada’s recovery. Their massive programs of public works, of repair, renovation and brand, new construction proved to be a historic and effective strategy.
Indeed, no less vigilant a servant of the taxpayers than the Auditor General herself recognized it is such. In a recent assessment of the economic action plan’s implementation, Sheila Fraser drew favourable attention to its appropriate management practises and the provision of programs to eligible recipients in a timely manner.
However, despite the best efforts of all concerned, not every project is likely to be completed by March 31st. There is a variety of reasons for that. Construction reasons can be short, weather can be unpredictable, as we’ve seen for example in Saskatchewan and in Newfoundland recently. And then there is always Mr. Murphy and his wretched law.
Happily, as I’ve said, we are not talking about a large percentage of projects or any systemic delays. So even as we applaud those who have completed their projects on time, we empathize and have said we would be flexible with those experiencing some delay.
And of course we remind ourselves of what our objective was when we launched Canada’s Economic Action Plan. It was not to make bets with municipalities on meeting the deadlines. It was to bring forward the necessary investments to stabilize the Canadian economy at a difficult time.
Therefore, there is neither merit nor justice in requiring a rigid interpretation of the contracts.
That is why I’m pleased to announce today that we are extending the deadline for completion of the Economic Action Plan infrastructure projects by one full construction season to October 31st, 2011.
Now while this is subject to some conditions, it should allow sufficient time for the completion of all remaining projects. And as this applies to projects already approved, there will be no additional cost to taxpayers.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, as you know, we have begun national consultations on the next phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. While the crisis environment of the global economy of 2008-2009 has abated considerably, we are not out of the woods yet.
The global recovery remains very fragile and as a government we will not take our eye off the number-one priority of Canadians, and that is the economy of this country.
We will continue to support jobs and growth through targeted initiatives, by restraining spending, keeping it focused on priorities; and of course keeping taxes down for Canadian families and businesses.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you all for being here and I just want to tell the people from Sheridan that I look forward to getting the phone call that tells me the Mississauga campus is open and there are students here in class.