The results of the recent municipal election have produced a strong mandate for renewed investment in transit and transportation. In an era of fiscal constraint, how does the Ontario government get the biggest bang for its buck out of this fund? The answer is right under its nose: trust in the made-in-Ontario Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model. The government uses the AFP model as a means to leverage capital and expertise from the private sector to design, build, finance, and maintain major infrastructure projects. In doing so, the model transfers the risk of project cost increases and scheduling delays on to the private sector.
I want to tell you a story about discrimination. It is a story that has been told for years by people living on reserves like the one where I live. Now a document prepared by federal bureaucrats has been released that describes the yawning gaps between social services provided to Aboriginal people living on reserves and everyone else. We are experiencing a slow motion march towards second-class citizenship. We're talking about billions of dollars that are not being spent on education for children, healthcare for the sick, and clean drinking water for all -- just because people are unlucky enough to be Aboriginal. Aboriginal people on reserves are asking for comparable services as other Canadians. This is not too much to demand.
The biggest loser in this election is not the Hudak Conservatives, but the NDP. Had Ms. Horwath not defeated the May budget and triggered this election, she would have kept the minority Liberals hostage to her dictates. While the NDP is set to gain an additional seat in these elections, it has lost all legislative power it enjoyed only a few weeks ago. Hardly a success by any measure. Tim Hudak's Conservatives ran a far right Tea Partish campaign that took comfort and strength in ideology, flawed as it may be, and not in rationality.
The Conservative platform is off the economic track as it invokes analogies and comparisons that defy the economic fundamentals. Ontarians on June 12 have to vote on their future. They can choose to invest in Ontario's education, health, and infrastructure. Alternatively, they can choose to become the victims of false analogies.
As Ontario inches closer to elections in June, two distinct visions emerge for the provincial economy. The Liberals propose investments in physical and social infrastructure, which will require running a deficit in the short run. The Ontario Conservatives, however, balk at the idea of deficit financing and propose stringent spending cuts.
Policies that restrict competition ultimately act to the detriment of Canadian firms and their workers. Free trade agreements like CETA open new markets for Canadian companies, but also force them to compete against foreign entities at home. It is that competition that spurs innovation and productivity.
Beyond higher taxes or more debt, there has always been another option: prudent spending. However, that is something the Alberta government has been less than adept at in some years. For instance, had the province increased program spending after 2005/06 and to 2012/2013 but only in line with inflation and population growth, it would have spent $22 billion less compared to what it actually sent out the door.
Canadian investors are well-known in Colombia, particularly in the oil and gas sector. The crisis proved to be a setback to impressive investment activity, but it has since rebounded. Canadian direct investment in Colombia is now over 70 per cent higher than at the 2008 peak, at just under $1.8 billion.
We face two critical challenges in Canadian national politics today. First, how do we restore genuine democracy and persuade the 40 per cent of Canadians who sat out the vote in 2011 to vote again? The second challenge relates to the first: How do we convince those same Canadians to vote for the strong, active federal government we need to build a productive, innovative economy that fairly benefits all Canadians?
The recent announcement by the federal government that it will fund Toronto's subway system is not good news for Canada. It means more of the same style of infrastructure funding we have always had. Instead of predictable, reliable and rules based projects, Canada is riddled with a mish mash of almost completed and almost dead projects politicians pick and choose to save (or not).
Embedded sensors are cheap and more importantly, they talk to each other and the grid. In an office building, for example, sensors can manage heat, air conditioning, office lights, building security, and video concierge service all from one location. The concept of "smart buildings" has been around for 10 years, but it has now arrived. It's real. With embedded sensors, software and a dashboard to control all connected elements, the building now becomes a "smart building." Did 25 per cent of employees forget to turn off their computers? No problem; Cisco systems can turn them all off remotely and save electricity.
As governments here in Canada wrestle with the challenge of providing high-quality transportation infrastructure, they should increasingly consider public-private partnerships, or P3s. The record shows P3s are more likely to be built on time and on budget, and they offer greater value for money than conventional infrastructure projects.
When it comes to urban sustainability, cities in the U.S. and Canada are employing innovative programs and policies to improve the health and well-being of residents and their local environments. But (with some notable exceptions, such as Vancouver and Calgary) no successful rapid transit infrastructure projects have been built in Canadian cities for decades.
One of Canada's biggest public policy challenges is a coming wave of retiring baby boomers. This will increase the draw on Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the Canada Pension Plan, and other social programs such as health care while the number of workers left to fund it all will shrink. To enhance economic performance and boost productivity, governments have reached into their policy playbooks.
Natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, are common worldwide and leave the affected public vulnerable to the harsh realities of nature, including the onslaught of infectious diseases. The reality of any disaster of this magnitude is that public health measures are all but forgotten as people do everything they can to survive. The viruses will surely arrive before the area has recovered.