VAN BUREN: It’s time to focus on the elephant in the (economic recovery) room

Via Calgary Sun

It is critical that investments in infrastructure continue and a skilled workforce is an important part of the equation.

As the weeks of this short, mostly summertime, election campaign slipped by, it was frustrating to see pressing and important conversations being derailed as campaigns focused on much less fundamental matters.

The essential question of Canada’s economic recovery — the issue that the prime minister cited as the basis for an early election call — got little attention as other issues ate up space in newspaper columns and on Twitter feeds.

True, the Conservative platform talked about getting Canada’s economy back on track and the Liberal platform talked about building a better Canada, yet both lacked focus on what is at the heart of Canada’s economic recovery and of our future prosperity: The essential infrastructure Canadians rely on every day — from the schools we send our kids to; the hospitals that care for us; to the roads, bridges and trade corridors that connect our communities not only to each other but also to the global marketplace.

Infrastructure is both an investment in Canada’s future and a catalyst to recovery from the pandemic. Construction is the backbone of the Canadian economy, employing some 1.4 million Canadians, pumping about $141 billion annually into the national economy, and accounting for nearly 7.5% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). So why aren’t we talking about it? It’s the elephant in the economic recovery room.

With a debt of $1.6 trillion, it nevertheless remains critical that investments in infrastructure continue. Funds must be predictable, flow quickly, and be aligned with provincial, municipal and Indigenous needs. The stability of having projects planned several years out, based on evidence and independent expert advice (ideally from a body with the mandate to align governments and address infrastructure deficits right across