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Politics Sohi lays out more infrastructure-spending details; PBO says ‘not quite there’

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi gives an update on the implementation of the 'Investing in Canada' plan at a news conference in Ottawa on April 19, 2018.

PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government released new details on its plan to spend billions on roads, transit, housing and green projects, but Parliament’s spending watchdog said he’s still looking for more information.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and his deputy minister, Kelly Gillis, held an hour-long briefing with reporters Tuesday and released a 71-page report with updates on how Ottawa will spend $187.8-billion on infrastructure over 12 years.

The effort is in response to recent criticism from Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Fréchette, who said the government should provide a detailed breakdown of how all of that money will be spent by year and by program.

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The PBO has praised the government for recently providing that level of detail for $81.2-billion of that amount, but has asked for a similar breakdown of the full $187.8-billion in promised spending.

The new information released Thursday includes a table providing a breakdown of $92.2-billion in spending from programs that were in place before the Liberals formed government in 2015.

The remaining $14.4-billion relates to what the Liberal government calls its first phase of new infrastructure spending.

In an interview, Mr. Fréchette said he is still looking for a clear breakdown of that amount and a detailed table that places all three categories in one place with a full breakdown of the $187.8-billion total. He said he’s asked the infrastructure department for a briefing on their new information.

“We’re getting close to getting what we asked for, but we’re not quite there,” he said.

The PBO issued a report earlier this year that said the government’s infrastructure plan was “prone to delays and spending has fallen short of initial plans.”

During the news conference, Mr. Sohi insisted that the program is largely on track and that any delays were agreed to at the request of the provinces.

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“Infrastructure investments are about long-term opportunities,” he said. “They act as a catalyst for economic growth … I would say we’re delivering as we thought we would.”

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