Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Canada Action Plan Was Nothing More Than a PR Stunt

I posted early last month that there were many people who believed that the Canada Action Plan was a complete fraud - nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Well, turns out they were right. 100 million for Reform Party advertising, 45 million for Reform Party signs, and despite the fact that Harper announced recently that 90% of the funding was out the door, we learn today that a mere 7% has been invested in Canada.

7%. That's it. All that bluster was nothing more than empty rhetoric. So where in hell did our money go? We are now a half a trillion dollars in debt, with nothing to show for it. Billions of dollars of worthless paper thanks to Jim Flaherty.

A year ago the Reform Conservatives announced 1.9 billion for social housing. So far 1% has been spent. Yet homelessness is on the rise and food banks are being used more than any other time in our history

But do you think Stephen Harper is losing any sleep over this? No way. The National Citizens Coalition has won. Neo-conservatism has won and the Canadian people are still in trance, lulled into a deep sleep by a Beatles song. I am so ashamed.

Impolitical wrote a great piece on the subject with a lot of detail.

No steam in stimulus
Only 7 per cent of infrastructure projects begun across country
The Chronicle Herald and
GLEN McGREGOR The Ottawa Citizen
December 1, 2009

Shovels were in the ground on only seven per cent of the projects funded by the Harper government’s largest infrastructure stimulus program by late September, newly released data show.

The revelation from the government’s own numbers is likely to add weight to opposition claims that the bulk of the unprecedented wave of government spending won’t hit the street until the construction season of 2010, when the worst of the global economic downturn may have passed.

The database detailing spending under the $4-billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund shows that construction has started on only 201 of 3,034 projects – building, water, road and sewer ventures across the country.

The figures were compiled on Sept. 22, a week before Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a carefully choreographed event in Saint John, N.B., at which he trumpeted that 90 per cent of the money in his economic stimulus package had been committed.

At the time, opposition critics scoffed that he was refusing to announce the number of projects actually started, emphasizing the high percentage of projects approved.

But the database detailing the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund spending includes only $2.8 billion of federal spending commitments, which is about 70 per cent of the $4-billion two-year fund, a figure substantially lower than Mr. Harper’s assertion that 90 per cent of infrastructure spending had been committed.

However, there are several other funds in the federal government’s two-year $12-billion infrastructure investment program, meant to inject some gas into the economy struggling to cope with a global recession.

It is possible that shovels had hit the ground in more projects than the database shows, because the federal government’s reporting regime lags significantly behind actual construction starts. The database shows that 66 per cent of projects were scheduled to start by the time the database was assembled.

Other projects have begun since then. For instance, a $38-million tunnel between Algonquin College and the Baseline Road transit station in Ottawa broke ground Oct. 16 with Infrastructure Minister John Baird on hand.

Federal government spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests Tuesday to explain the low number of construction starts. Opposition critics have complained that the government has tried to hide the number of construction starts, because it shows the Harper government hasn’t been acting quickly enough.

The database was prepared for MPs on the government operations committee and obtained by The Halifax Chronicle Herald and Ottawa Citizen.

The results show that in most provinces no projects have been started. Only projects in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are underway.

Most of the projects actually underway – 169 of them - were in Quebec, all but one were water main projects under the province’s PRECO program. The federal government announced a $350-million contribution to the program in April.

The approval process for projects in Quebec - where the federal government is forbidden by law from dealing directly with municipalities – is different from those in other provinces, where municipalities file applications, which must be approved by civil servants, then politicians.

The database gives some indication of the difficulties that the federal civil service faces as it struggles to get projects approved quickly without violating regulations designed to safeguard taxpayer dollars. There are 30 fields of information for each project, with boxes to be checked off for permits from three levels of government, environmental approval and aboriginal consultation.

One civil servant familiar with the approval process who requested anonymity said it was not surprising that so few projects had actually been started.

“These things take a long time because there are multiple levels of intermediaries, thanks to provinces and municipalities,” the civil servant said.

“So by the time the negotiations go through and a contribution agreement is signed it normally takes a year and a half.” More than 1000 projects are still waiting for the necessary permits or environmental approvals to begin work, the data show, even though the government acted to streamline environmental approvals in the 2009 budget.

More Postings on the Economy:

1. "I like to Pay Taxes. With Them I Buy Civilization"

2. Stevie and Jimbo Would be More Convincing if They Just Stopped Talking

3. Will Bailing Out Sinking Auto Industry Keep it Afloat?

4. Loonie Slips as ...No wait. Harper Just Stepped on a Banana Peel

5. Ring Around the Rosy, Harper's Full of Baloney

6. A Little Trip Down Memory Lane with Andrew Coyne

7. Harper Afraid of Election Tells Us Worst is Over

8. Dumb Da Dumb Dumb. A Little Music to Walk the Plank By

9. Where Are the Shovels, the Jobs, the Stimulus?

10. Good News, Bad News, and Worse News on the Economy

11. Why Stephen Harper's Economic Plans Will Fail

12. Canadian Government Focus of Unsolved Mysteries Episode

13. Conservative Road to Recovery is Paved With Lies

14. For All Their Bluster Canada May be Last of G7 to Exit Recession

15. Canada Not as Financially Sound as We'd Like to Think

16. Parliamentary Budget Officer Says Harper's Economic Update Was a Work of Fiction

17. The Reform-Conservatives Get Undue Credit While Harper Gets Caught in Another Lie

18. Stephen Harper and the Big Lie About Deficits

19. Parliamentary Budget Officer to Prepare Report on the Impact of an Aging Population

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