Ottawa needs to ensure a good return on investment
It’s always good to have a plan – especially when you’re preparing to spend $186 billion.
That’s the amount of money the federal government is about to start doling out toward infrastructure projects over the next decade. But a new report from the Senate finance committee is suggesting billions of dollars could be wasted if the Liberal government doesn’t devise a detailed strategy to govern the outlay of infrastructure cash.
The report, released Tuesday, recommends a plan be crafted that will make certain the money is invested where it will do the most good to ensure a good economic return. It suggests investment in trade infrastructure to aid in the movement of goods to Europe and Asia would be especially beneficial.
It appears Infrastructure Canada’s way to measure the success of infrastructure spending is based on the number of completed projects and their value – in other words, how much is spent instead of what that money will actually produce.
“The operational plan is let’s get X number of dollars out and Y number of projects,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. Larry Smith, said in a Canadian Press story. “Is that the measurement that we want to be using when we’re talking about $186 billion?”
Let’s hope not.
The committee is correct in pointing out it’s important to do things right and be able to track the return from the money that is spent. After all, we’re talking about a large amount of money – taxpayers’ money. Far too often public money is thrown around with little regard for the fact that this money comes from the pockets of Canadian citizens who have worked hard to earn it, and many of whom are having their own struggles trying to make ends meet in challenging economic times. The least they should be able to expect is that the money they hand over to the government is being spent responsibly.
It should go without saying that before the government starts handing out $186 billion in infrastructure spending, there would be a detailed strategy in place for how that will happen in order to ensure the best bang for the bucks.
A spokesman for Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi was quoted as saying the government will release a long-term infrastructure plan this spring that will include the Liberals’ “vision, outcomes, indicators and program details.” We don’t know if that means the details are already in the works, or that the government is going to try to come up with some sort of proper strategy now that the Senate report has pointed out the importance of actually having a plan.
Whatever the case, let’s hope that when the infrastructure money starts being rolled out to the various projects, it will be done with due consideration of the desired return on investment. One of the Librans’ goals in providing this funding was to give a boost to the economy. That won’t happen if the infrastructure money isn’t spent wisely.