It’s no secret to those waiting for buses and subways, or those idling on crowded roads and bridges that across the country we need to spend more on public infrastructure. It’s estimated our infrastructure deficit is anywhere between $120 and $170 billion.

“We haven’t been investing in new public transit or repaving our roads, or investing in rail corridors,” says Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute, a national, non-partisan organization that generates ideas and solutions for Canada to become more productive and prosperous. “This impacts the quality of life of all Canadians and needs to be addressed.”

The Institute is calling for a five-year $50-billion public infrastructure spending initiative, to be shared by the provincial and federal governments, after commissioning a report that concludes this spending would generate a large return on investment, trigger significant private sector investment, boost productivity, stimulate jobs, and increase wages.  The report was authored by the Centre for Spatial Economics.

“We are in this state, because it was easy to ignore, but by the time the cost of ignoring our infrastructure is tallied it will cost even more, because the cost of repairing it continues to rise,” says Smith. “It’s like the homeowner that ignores the small leak in the roof, and then the whole thing falls in.”

“Investing in infrastructure creates good paying jobs.”

Calls for a national investment strategy

Smith would like to see a nationally coordinated strategy, and is buoyed by the interest coming from provincial and municipal governments across the country, who are focused on the next generation of infrastructure. “I am optimistic this issue is getting the traction it needs, but the federal government needs to be a catalyst for a lot of these discussions,” he says. “The impacts on increased employment are inarguable. It will shave the unemployment rate, and half of the jobs created will be in construction.”

That’s good news for people like John Telford, the UA’s Director of Canadian Affairs, one of the country’s largest trade unions. “Investing in infrastructure creates good paying jobs,” he says. “We need governments to do more. We’ve been sold a story that low taxes is a good thing, but lower taxes means we can’t afford to pay for infrastructure and public services.”

Infrastructure investment means more jobs

According to Telford, investing in infrastructure also means young people have an opportunity to get their foot in the door to rewarding career opportunities in the trades. “The demographics in the trades is definitely older, so there will be a lot of retirements in the coming years,” he says. “But we need to be training more apprentices, so we’re prepared and don’t end up with a huge shortage of skilled workers.”

Whether it’s a national energy strategy or building safe and environmentally-sound pipelines, so we don’t have to rely on foreign oil to fill our refineries, or improved public transportation in our largest cities, the federal election campaign is providing a platform for Canadians to have conversations about the need for government to further invest in our public infrastructure.