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Stimulus plan created few jobs, survey finds

by Mike De Souza
Postmedia News

Almost two out of every three communities say they have not seen any new job creation as a result of the Harper government’s infrastructure stimulus spending program, says a new report by Parliament’s budget watchdog.

The report, released Wednesday, was based on a comprehensive survey of recipients of the multibillion-dollar government stimulus plan for infrastructure.

It found that 43% of respondents said the spending had no impact on employment levels in their community, while 21% said it actually increased unemployment and 33% saw a decrease in unemployment.

“There appears to be enough evidence to conclude that certain types of projects produce better results, and that some organizations and jurisdictions are much more effective at getting maximum benefit from this type of program,” says the report, released by parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page.

“Overall, respondents felt that the program was generally well administered and contributed positively to the general well-being of their community; however, the perceived impact on the unemployment rate in their community is mixed.”

The survey was conducted between June 8 and Aug. 3, resulting in 644 completed questionnaires out of a total of 1,129. The results are considered accurate within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The report also notes that certain types of projects such as investments in public transit were “very effective” at employment creation. It said that other transportation projects related to airports, highway, port and cruise ship infrastructure were effective in producing higher-paying jobs. Solid waste management projects were not considered to be effective at creating large numbers of jobs or good pay levels, the report says.

Other findings from the report revealed that 87% of respondents believed the infrastructure stimulus money had improved the “general welfare” of their community and more than half, or 58%, of respondents said it was decreasing their infrastructure deficit — the amount of investments required to bring facilities up to acceptable levels.