How much federal infrastructure funding will we see?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Budgeting more federal money for apprentices and infrastructure looks good. But potential benefits for B.C. workers will depend on where the training money goes and what projects are chosen. 

“The devil is in the details,” said Tom Sigurdson, BC Building Trades executive director, following the delivery of the federal Liberals’ first budget in March. “We still don’t know if any money is going to go to joint training boards.” 

That budget contains a deficit of almost $30 billion this year, almost three times what the Liberals forecast in last year’s election.  

Ottawa’s financial plan includes a dramatic increase in infrastructure spending, although probably not as much as promised during last October’s campaign. 

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that he would make $120 billion available for infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.

Sigurdson said funding support for the council’s joint union-management training boards have proven to be money well spent. Some 85% of apprentices have successfully completed their training. 

“If they want to put the money where the success has been, I would imagine the joint training boards should be in line for some decent funding,” Sigurdson said. 

It’s not clear exactly where the money is going, but the budget indicated at least some of it “will seek to incorporate greater union involvement in apprenticeship training and support innovative approaches and partnerships with other stakeholders, including employers.” 

The budget indicated $85.4 million will be provided over five years “to develop a new framework to support union-based apprenticeship training.” 

BC Building Trades President Lee Loftus said it was encouraging to see that the Liberals singled out unionbased apprenticeships.

“The money that is going towards apprenticeship training is crucial for maintaining the skilled workforce. This is a great start,” he said. 

“We have tentatively secured two, maybe three contracts. We are negotiating and it appears it’s all green lights for us,” Loftus said of the possibility of locking in federal funding for the apprenticeship programs.

Funding might be coming as well to BC SkillPlan. It helps apprentices polish their literacy and math skills so that they can successfully complete their trades training. That service has helped under-represented groups such as some local workers, women, and aboriginal people receive the training they need to work on major construction projects. 

The first phase of the increased infrastructure spending includes $3.4 billion over 3 years for public transit; $5 billion over 5 years for water, wastewater and green infrastructure projects; and $3.4 billion over 5 years for “social infrastructure” including affordable housing, early learning and childcare, cultural and recreational projects, and health care facilities on reserves. 

But, Sigurdson said, B.C. workers will have to wait to see what projects are chosen before knowing whether it will help workers find jobs in B.C.  

Canadian highways, bridges, water treatment plants, and sewage treatment plants have been in decline for more than a decade. “So now we should be doing a bit of catch up,” Sigurdson said. 

B.C.’s strong representation in the Liberal caucus–17 Liberal MPs were elected in B.C.–could help this province win a good share of infrastructure funding.

By David Hogben 

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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