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Infrastructure, infrastructure


January 16, 2009
By Andy Bateman

January 16, 2009 – The provinces' premiers and
mayors are keeping up the pressure on the federal government for a boost in
infrastructure spending.

As reported by CBC news yesterday, provincial and territorial leaders are presenting
Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a lengthy wish list of new infrastructure
projects to stimulate their economies during two days of pre-budget
consultations. Harper has suggested the upcoming budget could contain up to $30
billion in stimulus measures over several years.

The premiers are looking for funding and for ways to streamline the
approval process so that projects can get underway faster. In 2007, the Harper
government announced money for infrastructure projects under the Building
Canada Fund, but nothing was built because projects got bogged down in red
tape.

Some of the premiers stressed that they are willing to put up money if the
federal government does. Others premiers noted that they are already investing
a lot of money, and it's time for the federal government to step up.

This is the first formal first ministers meeting Harper has held during his
three years in office. He has met informally with premiers several times over
dinner or lunch — the last time only two months ago to discuss the global
economic crisis. The first ministers will be briefed by key officials during
their two days of talks, including the governor of the Bank of Canada and the
federal finance, transport and human resources ministers.

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Premiers' requests will influence budget: federal official

The premiers'
requests will be taken into consideration as the federal government prepares
its Jan. 27 budget, a senior government official told reporters Thursday.
Although the budget is already 292 pages long (328 pages for the French
version), the official said it is not final and 15 per cent of it could be
altered.

Satisfying the premiers is a crucial step in ensuring a favourable reaction
to the budget, on which the fate of Harper's minority government rests. The
opposition Liberals are threatening to defeat the government and pursue a
coalition with the NDP and support from the Bloc Québécois if the budget
doesn't do enough to

Projects ready to go: mayors

Thursday's first ministers
meetings came as mayors from Canada's
22 biggest cities met in Ottawa
for their own talks. They gathered at the request of the federal government,
which wants the mayors discuss their needs and priorities.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has released a list of more than
1,000 infrastructure projects they said would be "shovel ready" as
early as this spring if federal funding is made available.

Those projects, the
organization said, would cost the federal government $13.7 billion. Mayors say
the cost would be worth it in the long run, considering these infrastructure
projects would create 150,000 jobs and stimulate the economy. Mayors say the
best way to channel money their way would be through the federal gasoline tax
transfer, and stressed that the federal government needs to get behind them
immediately.