For equal dollars on infrastructure – Federal Election/editorial – For equal dollars on infrastructure
September 29, 2008

Like the rest of the country, Ontario is suffering from crumbling infrastructure – roads, bridges, subway, power plants and lines, water and sewer systems – and struggling to find the money to rebuild.

“Building infrastructure is crucial to Ontario’s future,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said in a letter to the federal party leaders last week. “By investing in infrastructure, governments can create jobs in the short term and build a stronger economy in the long term.”

To address the infrastructure demands across the country, the Conservative government in Ottawa has established the “Building Canada” plan to distribute some $33 billion in funding over seven years.

Some of that is old money that has been repackaged, such as the dedication of a share of the federal gasoline tax to municipalities. That was an initiative of the previous Liberal government in Ottawa.

But some of it is new money, including $8.8 billion for “key national priorities” and $8 billion from the extension of the gasoline tax fund beyond its expiry date of 2009 to 2014.

“Funding will be allocated for projects in the provinces and territories based on their population,” says the Building Canada website.

But the allocation for Ontario – announced last summer with some fanfare – is $6.2 billion, or about $970 million short of what the province should be entitled to on a per-capita basis, according to Queen’s Park officials.

That $970 million would be enough to pay for plans to add a third track to parts of the busy Lakeshore West GO line and provide other improvements to GO service.

In the past, when Ontario’s economy was booming and leading the way in Canada, the province could have overcome such a shortfall without complaint. But today, while Ontario taxpayers still send billions to the “have-not” provinces in the form of equalization payments, this province is suffering economically under the combined weight of a high dollar, high energy prices and a slumping American economy.

In these circumstances, Ontario should not have to accept less than its fair share of federal infrastructure funding. The party leaders ought to reply to McGuinty’s letter and spell out what they would do to ensure that fairness prevails.

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