The federal Liberals will miss a self-imposed deadline to have the government’s signature long-term infrastructure program in place by the end of this month.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi had pledged last summer that bilateral deals would be signed with all provinces and territories “by March, 2018, at the latest.” The deals will allow Ottawa to start making announcements from what the Liberals call the second phase of infrastructure funding, worth about $33-billion over 10 years.
However Mr. Sohi acknowledged Wednesday that his deadline will not be met. He still hopes to have all of the deals in place soon.
“They’re all ready to sign,” he told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa. “It’s just a matter of finding the timing to work with everyone’s busy schedules and there’s approval processes that every province and territory need to go through in order to get the authority to sign.”
The minister declined to provide a new target date for when he expects all of the deals will be in place.
“We are working toward having the majority [of the deals] signed in the next couple of weeks,” he said after announcing a phase 2 bilateral deal with Nunavut.
Earlier this month, Mr. Sohi announced deals with Ontario, New Brunswick and the North West Territories. That leaves eight provinces and one territory without infrastructure deals as of Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) will release a report on the government’s first phase of infrastructure funding. The first phase was a five-year plan announced by the Liberals that is worth nearly $12-billion. It was designed to focus on the repair of existing assets.
The second phase, which is the subject of the bilateral deals Ottawa is in the midst of announcing, promises to fund major new infrastructure projects such as public transit. The government has said that when its new infrastructure programs are combined with existing federal funding such as the automatic gas tax revenue transfers to municipalities, Ottawa will be spending more than $180-billion on infrastructure over 12 years.
However the PBO has criticized the government for not providing enough transparency over the spending. The Feb. 27 budget announced that some of the infrastructure spending is being pushed back to future years. However, the budget only provided a breakdown of $81.2-billion in spending. The PBO has asked the government to provide a year-by-year breakdown of all planned infrastructure spending.
Mr. Sohi said Wednesday that Ottawa is working on a response to the PBO’s concerns that will clearly outline federal spending on infrastructure.