Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ontario's Infrastructure Marshall Plan

Kudos to Ontario's Liberal government.   While their provincial counterparts elsewhere in the country are furiously burying their heads in the sand, Ontario is going to introduce a 10-year plan to replace crumbling infrastructure

Infrastructure means funding and funding means taxes.   Infrastructure also means investment and investment means long-term returns on capital.   However not spending on infrastructure only makes the problems more expensive in the long run.   There's a reward if you do it and there's an even bigger penalty if you don't.

One of the greatest leadership failings of contemporary politicians is their short-sightedness.  When you see the world in the context of the next election cycle, there's a powerful temptation to kick problems down the road.  Eventually, however, these problems tend to grow too large to avoid any longer and that's usually when they've become punishingly expensive to address.

Bear in mind, it's not a matter of replacing the sort of infrastructure we enjoyed in the 70s and 80s.  That world is gone and it's not coming back for generations to come.  We now have to build better, stronger and sometimes different infrastructure to cope with the onset of climate change impacts.  Roads, bridges and such have to be built to withstand more heat, more cold and potentially severe flooding.  There's not much point building more stuff that's susceptible to those conditions.

Remember back in June when Calgary's SaddleDome was awash in floodwater?  By sheer coincidence that was when the World Council on Disaster Management gathered in Toronto for its annual conference.  One of the experts in attendance was McGill University professor emeritus, Dr. Saeed Mirza.   The professor, a specialist in structural engineering, estimated that Canada needed a trillion dollars worth of infrastructure upgrades to meet the conditions that will be coming at us this century.

So congratulations Ontario for being willing to finally bite the bullet on infrastructure.  May you example inspire every other provincial government across this country.


Anonymous said...

Yes and no when it comes to 'investments' and 'return on capital'.

Most of the 'hard' infrastructure such as roads, bridges and so on benefit trucking companies that only use Ontario as a bypass to US rules concerning maximum driving hours.

Also, the main beneficiaries tend to be big anti-union companies like Ellis Don that filter money from the general public to a small, upper-upper class elite.

Finally, most of these deals with be back-room only, with promises of transparency being about as empty as church on a week day.

I'd like to believe that the people of Ontario will demand full audits, get them and hang the people that are soaking this province out to dry, but hey, it all looks good in sound bites, so I'm sure a lot of people will fall for it.

Owen Gray said...

True, Anon. But he or she who holds the purse strings gets to call the tune.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, Ontario needs more infrastructure overhaul than just the 401. The lion's share of the work will have little or nothing to do with American truck routes.

As for the anti-union aspect, that has to be dealt with politically and Wynne's feet should be held firmly to the fire.

Still, seeing what's not going on in my own province, reading about Quebec and having fairly recently criss-crossed the country atop a motorcycle, what Ontario is doing is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Anonymous said...

This is also interesting. Poor old Newfoundland is always left out of the news. NFLD municipal leaders to join Target 2014 campaign for new long-term infrastructure plan (06/10/2012)