Speech by The Hon. Catherine McKenna Minister of Infrastructure and Communities at the COVID-19 Resilience Stream/Investing in Canada plan flexibilities announcement

Speech

August 5, 2020

It’s a pleasure to be here today with Stephen Bekta, the chair of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa and Owen Charters, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.

I would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People. We are grateful to have the opportunity to be present in this territory.

It is so great to be back here at the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa speaking to you in person. I know we’ve all missed having in-person gatherings like this, and it’s especially fitting for today’s announcement – which in many ways is all about bringing people together.

People are faced with such different challenges today than only a few months ago.  The pandemic has brought losses - human suffering and economic costs - and we’ve learned some vital, if painful, lessons. 

We know how to reduce the impact of the pandemic, to protect more lives, and to rebuild businesses and create jobs.

We’re painfully aware of the need to improve safety for older people who are living in long-term care facilities. 

We know the importance of school for children, and we know that parents are struggling with what is the best thing for their child this fall.  

Immediate and different investments in public infrastructure are needed now to Build Up, to address the health risks, create jobs, and make healthy, resilient communities.

That’s why I am announcing today that we’re adapting our infrastructure program to make it easier to invest in making schools safer for children and long-term care facilities safer for aging people.  We also need ways for people to exercise and appreciate nature without putting themselves at risk.

We’re speeding up project approvals, opening up the kind of projects eligible for funding, and offering a bigger federal cost share.

Under the new COVID-19 Resilience funding stream, the federal government will pay 80 per cent of the cost for projects that have a value of less than $10 million and can be completed by the end of 2021. Projects in the Territories are eligible for 100 per cent federal funding, and have an extra year to be completed.

We’re also making some changes to the eligibility criteria in the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, for projects that can start in the near term.

For example, mobile phone and cellular projects are now eligible for funding, as are inter-city transit projects.

The health and well-being of Canadians has been—and will continue to be—the top priority of our government. But this pandemic has affected more than our personal health. It has also affected our economy.

Which is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the $19-billion Safe Restart Agreement on July 16. It includes $2 billion for cities and towns across Canada to support front line workers and critical municipal services, which will be cost-matched by the provinces and territories.

The Government of Canada will also cost-match more than $1.8 billion to support any additional provincial/territorial contributions made for public transit. Here in Ontario, the federal contribution to transit operations is $1 billion.

We are in a time of transition and adaptation. The whole world is.

Every dollar we invest should do triple duty – creating jobs and economic stability, making communities more resilient, especially given the changing climate, and making communities equitable so that everyone has a fair shot to succeed.

I want to leave you with this thought: the trauma of this pandemic will pass, but in its wake the world will be a different place, and Canada will be too.

We have the chance to think carefully about the Canada we need and the Canada we want in the future.

To make the choices that ensure we are that country that lives its values -- of compassion, equality, optimism, concern for the planet.

The post-pandemic world will be full of new opportunities, and I want to help our people take advantage of those opportunities.

Thank you.

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