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Green Building | Roadbuilding

September 27, 2004

Four elements to deal

Infrastructure renewal is a priority with feds

BY GRANT CAMERON

STAFF WRITER

Infrastructure renewal is a key component of the federal government’s New Deal for Cities and Communities, John Godfrey, Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities, said in a speech recently to the Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Council of the Canadian Construction Association.

“I think we can all agree there is a great deal of awareness of this government’s commitment to renewed and sustainable infrastructure as a key component of the New Deal for Cities and Communities,” the minister said. “Our programs and partnerships have already translated—or are on track to do so—into major projects across Canada.”

John Godfrey

In the highway construction area alone, Godfrey said ring roads have been built that will move traffic out of the cores of Edmonton and Calgary, and the government is seeking an agenda for improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park, across Saskatchewan and New Brunswick and at key sites such as Kicking Horse Canyon in B.C.

Godfrey told council members that it’s important they understand where the government is going and why.

“Today’s infrastructure commitment is not about one-off actions. It is about strategic choices, partnerships and—most of all— creating more sustainable communities.”

Godfrey said the deal is truly new because the government is moving towards an approach that will benefit communities by ensuring that federal dollars are added to provincial and municipal money for better infrastructure results.

“What makes the New Deal for Canadian Cities and Communities truly new is that we’re moving towards an approach that considers communities as a whole, one that takes each piece of the puzzle and considers how it fits with the others to create a successful outcome.”

He said the government’s new approach has four elements.

First, it has a vision of where cities and communities should be in 30 years time and what the government can do as a partner with the provinces and municipalities.

Secondly, he said, the feds are getting all departments to ensure that their programs and activities in cities mesh with what the rest of the government is doing.

Thirdly, the government has started money flowing through the GST rebate and is working out how best to invest the gas tax in sustainable infrastructure.

Fourthly, Godfrey said, the feds are using resources from all levels of government to figure out how to achieve the best results with the money.

For companies that build roads or take on heavy construction projects, it means the government is taking on such investments when specific projects make sense to all partners in a particular community or region, the minister said.

“It means we can all do well by doing right.”

Godfrey said the right road and highway improvements can make a useful contribution in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the One Tonne Challenge that the government has proposed to Canadians, through measures such as cutting unnecessary traffic idling and reducing urban traffic slowdowns.

Meanwhile, he said, Windsor and communities along the Niagara River and in New Brunswick are prospering from growth in trade as a result of border crossing improvements.

“Strategically-chosen improvements can improve the quality of life in those communities and help other communities whose businesses depend on effective trade corridors.”

In addition to building infrastructure, however, Godfrey said the government also sees opportunities to promote and accelerate innovative technologies for sustainability.

He said the idea of terms and conditions in the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund and the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund is to make sure that infrastructure investments achieve action on such things as climate change.

“Once upon a time, governments said: ‘We want a road that will go from A to B and it has to meet this basic engineering standard.’ It was about getting the job done for the cheapest price, given some basic criteria.

“Now, many projects require the use of innovative and sustainable technologies. Governments are accepting higher upfront costs as the gateway to lower longer-term costs and more environmental benefits.”

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