While infrastructure is not the defining centrepiece of Canada’s 2021 federal budget, spending on items like Canada’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment, women in engineering, and Indigenous infrastructure needs, have received applause from some key stakeholders amid an economy in recovery from the pandemic.
Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s first budget, Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience, pledged $22.6 million over four years to Infrastructure Canada to conduct Canada’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment. Among its key priorities will be to assess the country’s infrastructure needs and establish a long-term vision; improve coordination among infrastructure owners and funders; and determine the best ways to fund and finance infrastructure.
Freeland predicts real GDP growth of 5.8% in 2021, after a record decline of 5.4% in the first year of the pandemic.
“This budget is about finishing the fight against COVID-19. It’s about healing the wounds left by the COVID-19 recession,” Freeland announced in a statement. “And it’s about creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days — and decades — to come.”
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Freeland also announced a plan to contribute $1.4 billion over 12 years, starting in 2021-2022, to Infrastructure Canada to reinvigorate the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund. The investment will support projects such as wildfire mitigation and stormwater system rehabilitation.
While the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario applauded the substantial funds for stormwater infrastructure in the federal budget, the Alliance’s executive director, Nadia Todorova, released a statement that warned of a lack of new money on the table to help municipalities with the cost of state-of-good-repair projects.
“A Safe Restart Agreement 2.0 or other funding mechanism is also needed to provide municipalities with financial assistance that will help them weather budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19. Without funding, these projects won’t proceed,” said Todorova.
Of the $1.4 billion for the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, $670 million would be dedicated to new, small-scale projects between $1 million and $20 million in eligible costs, the government said.
“Growing the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, as FCM recommended, will unlock job-creating local projects to protect communities from new climate extremes,” announced Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ president Garth Frizzell in a statement.
Frizzell also applauded the new budget for its new broadband funding to expand rural Internet access, as well as the doubling of next year’s Gas Tax Fund transfer for infrastructure as the new Canada Community-Building Fund.
The latest federal budget also pledges major investments in Indigenous infrastructure, including $4.3 billion over four years for the Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund and $1.7 billion over five years, with $388.9 million ongoing, earmarked for operations and maintenance costs of community infrastructure in communities on reserve. Additionally, investments of $6 billion over five years are included in the budget for “shovel-ready projects” over the next three to five years for what is defined as critical infrastructure by local chiefs and communities.
Engineers Canada expressed its satisfaction with the federal government’s commitment to creating an Action Plan for Women in the Economy. The goal is to help more women get back into the workforce and to ensure a “feminist, intersectional response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery,” Engineers Canada announced in a statement.
“Engineers Canada has been advocating for increased support for women in the engineering profession, especially in light of the disproportionate effects that COVID-19 economic impacts have had on women’s participation in the national economy,” stated Engineers Canada. “We are pleased to see Budget 2021’s significant focus on supporting women’s re-entry into the workforce following the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Liberal government is also investing $17.6 billion in a green recovery to assist Canada in reaching its target to conserve 25% of Canada’s lands and oceans by 2025, exceed its Paris climate targets and reduce emissions by 36% below 2005 levels by 2030, and move forward on a path to reach net-zero emission by 2050.