Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Road and Other Infrastructure in Canada

This is part two of a multi-part series on a report from Statistics Canada Report titled, "From Roads to Rinks: Government Spending on Infrastructure in Canada, 1961 to 2005". Today I want to focus on transportation infrastructure spending. One of the thing that you constantly hear is that BC has underinvested in road for so long that we have to play “catch up”. Looking at the information from this report, it would appear that this is not as dire as people say. In fact since 1961, BC has seen an average annual grow of 2.3% for road infrastructure; the highest rate in Canada. Looking at the following graph, we can see that BC largest per capita infrastructure boom was between about 1985 and 1992.

That was during the time of the Alex Fraser Bridge, Highway 91, Coquihalla, Okanagan Connector era. Between 1992 and 2005, road infrastructure spending was reduced throughout all of Canada, but we had more road infrastructure than Ontario and Quebec until 2002. If we look at absolute dollars in the following table, we can see that BC has kept pace with the rest of Canada and is number 3 in road infrastructure after Ontario and Quebec.

What is more interesting to look at is something called “Other transportation” in this report; this includes railway tracks and passenger terminals. Between 1961 and 2005, we saw a -1.0% loss of value in this kind of infrastructure in Canada and -1.6% in BC. This is the only area nation-wide that has seen negative growth at the provincial level (p.24), with local government trying to make up the difference. Again, TransLink in Vancouver and the TTC in Toronto are the perfect example. The TTC lost its provincial funding in the 1990’s, and has been in financial trouble ever since.

So looking at areas to improve, we can see that road spending has seen growth in absolute terms, but it would appear that other transportation has been sliding. Looking at these numbers and the environment, it would appear that we really need to play “catch up” more so with public transit and other transportation infrastructure.

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