Liberal Government Betrays Rural Canadians

Ottawa, ON – During an event with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities last week, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau said small, rural communities may not benefit from their new infrastructure plan.

“Small municipalities won't see much- if any- benefit from the federal government's proposed new infrastructure bank,” said Minister Morneau. “Global institutional investors will be looking to invest only in large transformational projects. It is unlikely they’ll want to sink money into roads and bridges in small communities.”

The Liberals’ infrastructure plan aims to offer capital and loan guarantees to municipalities for projects in their communities. Back in October, the Minister met members of his economic growth council to receive recommendations and feedback on his initial plan. Examples of recommended projects included toll highways and bridges, high-speed rail, port and airport expansions and city infrastructure—all of which are urban projects.

"While Prime Minister Trudeau meets with billionaires at private fundraising for the Liberal Party, his Minister of Finance is telling residents of small municipalities and rural communities they are second class citizens.  They won't be seeing any benefits from the new infrastructure bank that he claims is the reason for these meetings" said MP Stubbs.  "Time and time again, we see the Liberals breaking promises.  They are running massive deficits when they promised small ones; they promised transparency and are shrouded in secrecy. Most importantly, they promised to look out for rural Canadians and they are abandoning them" said MP Stubbs.

The plan, which will formally debut in Budget 2017, will include $15 billion in direct federal investments and another $20 billion in repayable contributions, loans and loan guarantees. The Liberals hope to attract $5 from investors for every $1 of government funding.

“The notion behind the bank is that it’s going to provide projects that are going to be large because they’re going to be large enough that institutional investors will be interested in them and these tend to be large investors that need to be able to write a large cheque,” said Minister Morneau. “The kinds of projects that are unlikely to fit the bill might be, you know, bridges or roads in smaller communities, for example.”

These comments are a direct contradiction to a campaign promise made last year. The Parliamentary Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, Adam Vaughn, said "a Liberal government would help rural communities attract the attention of huge private pension funds, which typically watch for multibillion-dollar investment opportunities, by combining their infrastructure needs into bigger packages."

President of the FCM, Clark Somerville proposed a bundling idea, where a group of communities with similar project plans could put forth a united plan and offer a greater appeal to international investors. In his remarks, the Minister didn’t address this proposal. However, a spokeswoman for Minister Morneau, attempted to prove rural and northern communities would benefit from the Liberals 12 year infrastructure plan, where only $2 billion out of $186 billion—1.6%--would be specifically targeted to rural communities.

"Only 1% of infrastructure funds will go to rural towns. The Minister even admitted this new bank will only work in cities,” said MP Stubbs in the House of Commons on Friday. “They have spent hundreds of thousands on limo rides for a Minister, moving expenses for staff, and private PR for their Liberal friends, but nothing for unemployed energy workers, or anyone else, across Canada.”

The Liberals have been in hot water over the past year with spending problems, such as $38 million in renovations for 24 Sussex, pay-for-access fundraising, expensive relocation costs for senior political staff and office renovations. It does little to reassure rural communities there are enough funds available for their projects. 

“Small municipalities and rural communities are the backbone of this country. They are where our food is grown, our resources are extracted, and the health of their infrastructure is absolutely vital to the Canadian economy" said MP Stubbs.  "Our American neighbours are suffering from a deeply divided country and those divisions are largely between urban and rural communities.  I am calling on Minister Morneau to treat urban and rural areas of this country equally and include rural communities in any infrastructure programs that this government implements" said MP Stubbs.