(Remarks I made on Friday, March 31st, announcing more federal support for infrastructure in Saskatchewan)
From the very beginning of our government, we have been clear that the biggest economic problem facing Canada is a seriously deficient rate of growth. For most of the past decade, the Canadian economy has been growing at a meagre average of about 1.5% per year.
That’s simply not good enough to generate the incomes and the prosperity necessary to meet the needs of Canada’s middle-class and all those working so hard just to get to the middle-class. Most people feel they’ve been falling behind.
So how do we fix that? Our answer is by investing in the things that will drive more sustained and sustainable economic growth:
- Investing in PEOPLE —so we have cut middle-class taxes and increased the Canada Child Benefit, all to put more after-tax disposable income in the hands of ordinary Canadians and their families.
- Investing in SKILLS & INNOVATION— so people can be better equipped for the new, knowledge-based jobs of the 21st century.
- Investing in TRADE—so we can get our high-grade Canadian goods and services into the best markets around the world. To that end, we’ve achieved more access for Saskatchewan beef and pork into Asia and Latin America and we’ve protected our canola exports to China. We’ve also concluded major new agreements with the EU and Ukraine. And we’ve approved four new pipelines (two for oil and two for gas) to gain new market access for western resources across North America and offshore.
- And we’re investing Big-Time in INFRASTRUCTURE—so we can drive jobs and growth in the short term in the most cost effective way, and at the same time expand the productive capacity of our economy to grow even faster and better in the future.
When we started, Canada’s infrastructure investment plan over the next 10 years totalled about $65-billion. That was a beginning, but not sufficient. Through our two budgets of 2016 and 2017, our government has essentially tripled that infrastructure investment plan to reach $180 billion over the coming 12 years.
It is focused on the country’s most significant infrastructure deficiencies—that is, conventional municipal and provincial projects (like streets, roads, bridges, highways, water and wastewater projects, and so forth), plus public transit, affordable housing, childcare spaces, facilities for seniors, the special needs of rural and northern communities, educational, recreational and cultural centres, trade and transportation corridors, and the environmental structures to help us defend ourselves against the consequences of climate change.
Is it affordable? Yes, because Canada’s debt ratio is currently the best in the G7, and among the very best in the western world. And yes, because interest rates have never been lower, so the costs of these projects will never be more economic than they are today. And yes, because the economic growth we will generate is an absolute prerequisite to balancing the country’s books in the years ahead.
Our investment plan has a firm fiscal anchor. Our very good debt ratio will remain flat over the next five years, and then begin to decline even further—maintaining Canada’s excellent fiscal status.
So how is all of this tangible to people? In more jobs. Higher skills and better incomes. Healthier, more attractive communities. More optimism and confidence about the future.
Safer, faster travel. Less environmental degradation. Less damage from climate change. More successful trade and commerce. Stronger underpinnings for families and communities.
The latest numbers show good signs that our plan is working.
Over 270,000 new jobs have been created, mostly full-time. The unemployment rate is down. Canada’s economic growth rate is heading toward 3% again. So that’s movement in the right direction.
As part of all this here in Saskatchewan, our infrastructure announcements over the past year have covered a broad array of really necessary projects—in close partnership with the province, municipalities, Indigenous communities and the private sector.
Federal commitments to date total more than $350 million since last year, and most of that is matched by our other partners.
Water and wastewater facilities in communities large and small, urban and remote, are high on the list. So are transit services, especially in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert.
And of course— highways, are always a Saskatchewan priority.
Today, the Government of Canada is bringing another $31 million to the table, to help Saskatchewan upgrade and make safer more than 220 kilometres of roadway— along some of the province’s heaviest routes— the TransCanada, Highway Number 2, Numbers 11 and 20, Numbers 16 and 10, and Highway 39. Saskatchewan will match these federal dollars.
And the results of this investment will be greater economic activity in the construction sector, good jobs, safer highways, more efficient transportation and traveller convenience, more trade and commerce, and communities linked better together.
All-in-all, good for Saskatchewan.
The Government of Canada is proud to be your partner.