There is much talk out of Ottawa these days that the best way to tackle the challenges of an economic meltdown is to invest in the infrastructure of the nation, a move that would best position the country for the recovery phase, once the economic order returns to a semblance of normalcy.
With that vision statement leading the charge, the Globe and Mail has provided an editorial in Tuesday's paper urging the Harper government to take that advice on capital spending and run with it.
Of particular interest to North Coast residents is the support the paper has provided for the expansion plans of the Port of Prince Rupert, suggesting that this is the exact time for the government to spend on transportation infrastructure projects such as Phase Two.
"Some of these undertakings could greatly facilitate trade. Commerce with Asia would be promoted by multiplying the container capacity of the port of Prince Rupert, B.C., with matching roads and railway tracks. Similarly, this would be a fine time to relieve the transportation congestion in the Lower Mainland of B.C."
While its probably easy to be an armchair economist from the comfort of a newspaper editorial board office, it is a suggestion that makes a fair amount of sense, considering the current level of concern in the Lower Mainland over any further encroachment on lands in the Delta area as part of the Deltaport expansion plans.
Critics there have said that with Prince Rupert on line now and prepared to expand further, that both the province and federal governments should devote their attention and finances towards the north coast and a chance to redefine the transportation grid for the future.
With the Globe and Mail offering much of the same advice, one wonders if the Conservatives may be finding that the future for Asian trade will flow through the Pacific Gateway at Prince Rupert, providing for a economic boost on the North Coast for the troubled economic times still to come.
Stimulus, when consumers are wary
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
November 24, 2008 at 11:35 PM EST
Any economic stimulus package will be subject to time lags between its announcement and the achievements of the desired effects. That is why Jim Flaherty, the Minister of Finance, ought to provide a significant framework for new expenditures on Thursday, when he presents his economic update, although detailed spending plans cannot be expected yet.
The federal and provincial governments should concentrate on capital investments, in their measures to stimulate the economy, and alleviate or prevent recession.
In other times and circumstances, it would be good policy to encourage consumers to spend and consume. At present, they are unlikely to respond. People are worried. They are saving for the rainy days they expect, retreating from shops into the safety of their homes; they are de-leveraging, using their cash to pay down credit-card credit – which is all very well, but it means that larger income-tax refunds or another GST cut would do little to boost the economy.
Canada has to also realize that we cannot hope to stimulate the economy of the United States, which is still the home of our most important customers.
Instead, governments should activate construction projects that are already on the drawing-boards, and have been waiting for funding. Canada's infrastructure suffered much depreciation during the fiscal restraint of the 1990s, and did not catch up in the balanced-budget period. The wear and tear are showing.
Setting infrastructure projects in motion will not immediately lead to rising payrolls and busier cash registers, but that is all the more reason why the time to get going is now – to put contracts out for tender that will before long begin to bear fruit in wages and salaries.
Some of these undertakings could greatly facilitate trade. Commerce with Asia would be promoted by multiplying the container capacity of the port of Prince Rupert, B.C., with matching roads and railway tracks. Similarly, this would be a fine time to relieve the transportation congestion in the Lower Mainland of B.C.
As for trade with the United States, the new bridge between Detroit and Windsor should be expedited, along with other steps to counteract the notorious thickening of the border.
Numerous other aspirations could be realized: the updating and enhancing of the electricity grid, an expansion of public transit in all of Canada's larger cities and faster interurban passenger trains, as well as more scientific and technological research.
Stephen Harper candidly admitted surprise at the extent of the crisis at the APEC summit on the weekend. The country can help itself recover from that surprise by turning well-laid plans into realities.