Get stimulus cash in play

Posted on February 27, 2009 in Debates – Opinion – Get stimulus cash in play
February 27, 2009

Mistakes will surely be made as the federal government pumps out $4 billion for roads, bridges and other infrastructure work, and billions more on other stimulus spending. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty openly admits it – and fair enough.

Any responsible disbursement of public funds weighs protective regulations and safeguards against a need for speed and flexibility. In general, the more cautious the government, the slower the flow of money. And with Canada facing the worst economic crisis in a generation, the need now is for speed. Unfortunately, the federal government is known for its sluggishness with infrastructure spending.

Flaherty has promised a streamlined process; hence his forecast of mistakes. And yesterday’s announcement of $3 billion being fast-tracked – to start stimulus spending by April – is a good sign that there may actually be some substance to those promises.

While speed is vital, equally important is flexibility. Rather than being hampered by narrow definitions, stimulus funding should be widely distributed to worthwhile projects.

For example, access to a $500 million “small communities” fund should be granted to neighbourhoods within big cities. Allowing them to access the fund could mean federal money for new “hub” agencies helping Toronto’s poor and under-serviced areas. Such hubs would house counselling services, anti-poverty programs, youth services and, in some cases, a health centre.

Some stimulus spending mistakes will likely be forgiven. What’s important is that it finally gets moving.


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