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A Rocky Road with Too Many Potholes

The poor state of Canadian infrastructure should be a cause of concern to all levels of government. However, as provincial governments across the country are stepping up to make key infrastructure investments, Ottawa signals that they will continue to inconvenience Canadians on their path to a “better future.” 

On Feb. 12, federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said the federal government will stop investing in new road infrastructure, signalling that the Liberal/NDP coalition is no longer content with attacking our industries through increased tax and regulation but are now moving to create roadblocks for vital infrastructure projects. 

Guilbeault has decided that existing road infrastructure, “Is perfectly adequate to respond to the needs we have,” although it is unclear what data is supporting that assertion. The Canada Community-Building Fund (the Gas Tax Fund prior to being renamed by the Liberals), has repeatedly dedicated billions in infrastructure dollars to provinces and municipalities to support highway construction, with 58.5 per cent of the fund invested in local roads and bridges from 2005-2019. In 2021, Ottawa and Alberta announced a joint investment to twin Highway 15 and 19, dedicating $73 million and $114 million, respectively.  

Investments like these are vital in maintaining trade corridors such as the CANAMEX/North-South Trade Corridor, which utilizes 1,150 km of Alberta’s provincial highway network and facilitates approximately $4.5 billion in annual exported goods from Alberta to the US and Mexico.  

The federal government halting investment in road construction will have broader implications for our economic competitiveness. If Ottawa worked alongside the provinces to champion infrastructure projects, we could position ourselves to attract further strategic investment via trade corridors.  

An example of recent key infrastructure investments is the province’s investment to twin Highway 3, expanding a vital trade route and enabling investment for agriculture and agri-food processing in Southern Alberta. The government of Alberta spent $31 million on the project in 2023, with an additional $63 million forecasted to be spent between 2024-2025.  

The obvious ancillary of investing in new road infrastructure is that Albertans would all be able to get where we need to go faster instead of wasting time and fuel idling in heavy traffic. Less time spent commuting and more time would not only improve productivity but decrease fuel consumption. 

Ottawa’s decision to halt new road infrastructure investments should raise alarms. The Liberal/NDP coalition’s move to discontinue funding for vital projects threatens Alberta’s prosperity and exacerbates existing challenges in product distribution. 

What the Liberal/NDP coalition refuse to see is that Canada must continue to build and expand trade corridors to meet growing demand. As Albertans and Canadians, we must demand our federal government increase investment in roads specifically but infrastructure generally. These vital investments have broader impacts on economic competitiveness and failing to make appropriate investments will hinder economic resilience. This policy will be yet another pothole in the road to success, impacting businesses that are already struggling with high regulation and increased operating costs.