It's an urgent, trillion-dollar threat that Harper thinks we should throw $50-billion dollars at over ten years. Hint: He should have made a $50-billion down payment on it in his stimulus budget in 2009.
Stephen Harper is thinking of funding a $50-billion/10-year infrastructure programme. That money won't even keep up with the pace of deterioration much less rebuild Canadian infrastructure to meet the challenges of climate change over the century ahead. At least Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
In June, while Calgary was flooding, the World Council on Disaster Management held its annual convention in Toronto. One expert in attendance, Dr. Saeed Mirza, emeritus professor at McGill, warned that Canada's aging infrastructure was in dire need of upgrading and replacement. He estimated we were looking at expenditures in the neighourhood of a trillion dollars and far more than than if we continued to put it off.
In January, 2009, the Brookings Institute made the case for similar, massive infrastructure spending in the United States.
"Major infrastructure projects of the past - such as the interstate highway system in the 1950s - were associated with steep increases in productivity. This productivity has receded in recent decades as investments have lost direction
and failed to focus on key areas. Without a national strategy for infrastructure, we are not experiencing the economic benefits of transformational programs like the interstates, the social benefits of iconic programs like rural electrification, or the sustainability benefits of air and water pollution control programs of the 1970s and 1980s."
It was Mark Twain who coined the line about how, to a man who has only a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Harper has that same lack of focus, a chronic inability to distinguish between spending and investing. That much was plain in his 2009 stimulus budget that I termed at the time his "pinata budget."
Too timid or ideologically hidebound to take the responsibility for investing the stimulus funding on something that would be useful to the country, he gave it away to those who were ready to put a new deck on the cottage. It was a colossal waste of money. A subsequent study concluded the money, all of it borrowed, was squandered so poorly that Canada lost out on 150,000 potential jobs.
The Harper government knows Canada is facing an infrastructure crisis but it's not about to tell the public any time soon, not while it still can kick that can down the road. What it knows only surfaced through access-to-information demands from the media.
The country and the very government responsible to protect it are falling apart on Stephen Harper's watch. He's digging us a very, very deep hole.