OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says the first two years of the government's massive infrastructure program will focus on "unsexy," yet desperately needed projects such as overdue maintenance.
The prime minister also acknowledged in an interview with Bloomberg today in New York that he doubts ramping up these types of early investments will boost the country's weak productivity.
But Trudeau says after the initial phase Ottawa will focus government spending on bigger, more-detailed projects aimed at increasing growth over the long haul and guiding Canada toward a low-carbon economy.
His remarks on the goals of the 10-year, multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan come as his government prepares to release further details of the program next Tuesday in its first budget.
Trudeau says the government is not so much trying to jolt the struggling economy into life — but lay the groundwork for better growth over the longer term.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is interviewed on Bloomberg TV in New York City, Thursday March 17, 2016. (Getty Images)
Experts like former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge say Ottawa must target long-term infrastructure needs like urban transit to help the country's biggest cities compete globally for high-quality employers and workers.
To do that, however, Dodge noted the government would have to sell the idea that funnelling more federal cash, which is collected across the country, into big-city projects is in the best interests of the economy overall.
"From a pure economic standpoint, our big infrastructure problems are ports, are major urban areas and major transportation corridors," Dodge said in a recent interview.
"The last thing we need is to cook up a bunch of painting projects or whatever that really are not going to help very much in the rural communities."
Dodge also said long-term projects such as major roads and bridges should generate revenue for governments in the form of user fees — or tolls. He said the extra income would help cut costs for the government and improve the efficiency of the infrastructure.
"It takes some political stickhandling — I just think that the time has come," Dodge said of user fees.
"Why do we charge for the use of buses and subways and give away the roads, quote, free, unquote? Obviously, it leads to a misallocation of resources."
Trudeau At The United Nations
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