Canada’s federal infrastructure minister recently stated that “shovel ready” projects – those backed by appropriate research, consultation, and knowledge of government goals and guidelines – will likely see some of the government’s sizeable infrastructure investment. Decision-makers across the country have been eagerly awaiting more information on the $60 billion dollar program since the Liberals took power in October.
It’s not just provincial and municipal leaders who will be impacted by these decisions. Infrastructure is an area that encompasses a broad scope of services, which are offered through the cooperation of various public, corporate, and (often) nonprofit interests. This year’s budget is good for these interests, as is an administration that purports to aim for a more inclusive decision-making approach.
Still, questions remain about how, exactly, this inclusiveness will be achieved. Justin Trudeau’s recent announcement that provinces, territories, and municipalities will be largely responsible for allocating federal funding to their projects has left many skeptical. What will such an arrangement look like? Will it put too much power into the hands of ill-equipped municipalities? Since the federal government still has the final say, will allocation revert to business as usual? This post will ponder these questions.
The Broad Appeal of Infrastructure Spending
If one thing was clear after this year’s federal election, it’s this: after more than a decade of Stephen Harper’s leadership, Canadians were ready for change. While some commentators have suggested that a widespread desire to remove the last administration from office determined October’s election outcome, there’s no denying that the Liberal platform resonated across the country. Increased infrastructure spending was central to this platform, working in Trudeau’s favour despite cautions about deficits from other parties.
Countless Canadians went to the polls thinking about how infrastructure spending might impact their lives. Many voters were probably influenced by the improvements this spending is meant to spur in the economy. For some, the idea of better roads or public transportation may have come into the equation. When it comes to the large number of Canadians who work (or hope to work) on projects eligible for infrastructure funding, the Liberal platform presented a more immediate form of hope. This is also true of the lobbyists who advocate for these projects.
Consider the example of a municipal public transport project. In many cases, a government relations practitioner would be the best person to educate decision-makers about the community’s need for reliable transit. A GR professional – a person who understands how government works – would also be of enormous help to any construction firm or service provider hoping to get involved. Other practitioners might be involved in communicating opposing points of view, or conveying the needs of sectors set to be involved in the project’s construction.
Increased government funding can mean an influx of work opportunities across several different sectors. In many cases, this will also mean a slew of new projects for government relations practitioners. Depending on the situation, it may also mean a greater chance of success. PM Trudeau has spoken of his plan to diversify the types of projects that receive funding. Allocating money fairly among the provinces is likely to be a big part of this undertaking. Many communities, businesses, associations, and other interests across the country stand to benefit from the government’s funding decisions and yet-unfulfilled promises.