OTTAWA – A Liberal government would invest any unanticipated surplus that exceeds a $3-billion contingency fund towards the infrastructure deficit facing Canada, Liberal Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion announced today.

“This new approach is nothing less than a contract between a Liberal government and the Canadians of today and tomorrow,” said Mr. Dion, during a speech at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Sustainable Communities Conference in Ottawa.

“Canada is facing an aging population. We will not pass onto our children crumbling bridges, leaky water pipes, and insufficient public transit.”

The Liberal leader presented a plan to address both our debt burden and our infrastructure deficit. He reiterated his commitment to the Liberal legacy of sound fiscal management, and noted it was through the efforts of previous Liberal governments that Canada was able to make tremendous progress in reducing its debt burden.

“Liberals have proven time and again that we can balance budgets, lower taxes and invest in Canadians’ most urgent needs, which is more than can be said of the Conservative track record. Just look at Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s history in Ontario: massive deficits and crippling program cuts,” he said.

To maintain Canada’s competitiveness and economic strength, Liberals understand we must now address the challenge of our infrastructure deficit.

Mr. Dion explained, as an example of how this new plan would work, that under a Liberal government, this year’s $10-billion surplus would not all be put towards the debt, as the Conservative government says it will be. Instead, $3 billion would have gone towards debt reduction, and $7 billion would have gone directly to Canada’s municipalities for pressing sustainable infrastructure needs: public transit, water treatment, waste management and cleaning up contaminated sites.

This funding would be in addition to existing infrastructure programs, including the Gas Tax Transfer, which Mr. Dion has committed to making permanent under a Liberal government.

“As we look to the future, we must remain committed to the basic principles of good economic management. Liberals know how tough it was to put our fiscal house in order. We have an ironclad commitment to balanced budgets and debt reduction,” said Mr. Dion. “But while the federal deficit has been eliminated, we cannot say the same for our infrastructure deficit.

“This investment will not impact our ability to meet the target of a 25 percent federal debt to GDP ratio by 2012. In fact, it may accelerate it by generating economic growth. It will, however, have an enormous impact on the sustainability of our cities and communities – a key part of building a richer, fairer, greener Canada.”

Link to full text of Mr. Dion's speech:  http://www.liberal.ca/story_13583_e.aspx