Transcript: Transit Spending to Save Our Cities? | Feb 19, 2021

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length straight brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer over a gray shirt, and a golden pendant necklace.

A caption on screen reads "Transit spending to save our cities? Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says THIS MONTH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PLEDGED 14.9 BILLION DOLLARS OVER EIGHT YEARS IN PERMANENT TRANSIT FUNDING. WITH US NEW FOR WHAT THE VISION IS AND HOW MUCH OF THAT ONTARIO CAN EXPECT TO SEE IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL, CATHERINE MCKENNA, MINISTER OF INFRASTRUCTURE AND COMMUNITIES AND THE LIBERAL MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR OTTAWA CENTRE.

McKenna is in her early forties, with straight blond hair in a bun. She's wearing a bright pink blazer.

A says WELCOME. HI!

McKenna says HI, IT'S GREAT TO BE WITH YOU VIRTUALLY.

Nam says VIRTUALLY, YES, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. SO A HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT. AND BEFORE WE BEGIN OUR CONVERSATION I JUST WANTED TO GO OVER SOME OF THE NUMBERS. SO SHELDON IF YOU COULD PLEASE BRING UP THE BOARD.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "The plan ti invest in transit."

Nam reads data from the slate and says
SO LAST WEEK THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED THEIR PLAN TO SPEND 14.9 BILLION DOLLARS OVER THE NEXT EIGHT YEARS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. THAT INCLUDES AN IMMEDIATE 5.9 BILLION DOLLARS TO BE SPENT ON A PROJECT BY PROJECT BASIS. AND THE CREATION OF A PERMANENT PUBLIC TRANSIT FUND OF 3 BILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR BEGINNING IN 2026-27. MINISTER, YOU'VE MADE ALMOST 6 BILLION DOLLARS AVAILABLE NOW. HOW WILL THAT MONEY BE ALLOCATED?

The caption changes to "Catherine McKenna. Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities."
Then, it changes again to "A long-term funding plan."

McKenna says WELL, SO WE'RE BUILDING ON WHAT'S ALREADY WORKING. SO WE'VE BEEN MAKING INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC TRANSIT ACROSS THE COUNTRY. WHICH IS MAKING A REALLY BIG DIFFERENCE. WHETHER IT'S ELECTRIC BUSSES IN TORONTO OR BRAMPTON OR IN GUELPH. THERE ARE MAJOR PROJECTS THAT ARE BEING LOOKED AT IN PARTICULAR TORONTO, HAMILTON, LRT. IT'S REALLY... WE TALK ABOUT BUILDING BACK BETTER. AND AS WE INVEST IN RESTARTING OUR ECONOMY, BECAUSE WE'RE IN A HEALTH CRISIS, BUT ALSO AN ECONOMIC CRISIS, WE NEED TO REALLY THINK ABOUT WHERE DO WE WANT TO BE IN THE FUTURE. AND I THINK FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, CLIMATE CHANGE IS A REALLY IMPORTANT ISSUE. BUT SO IS CONGESTION. PEOPLE ARE OFTEN, YOU KNOW, STUCK IN TRAFFIC. AND SO WE NEED BETTER PUBLIC TRANSIT. AND THAT IS ALSO GOOD FOR TAKING ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE. BECAUSE A LOT OF EMISSIONS COME FROM THE TRANSPORTATION SECTOR. SO I THINK IT IS A HUGE OPPORTUNITY. IT'S SOMETHING THAT'S VERY TANGIBLE IN PEOPLE'S LIVES. IT'S GETTING HOME FROM WORK FASTER. HOME FROM SCHOOL. WE ALL KNOW ESSENTIAL WORKERS RELY ON PUBLIC TRAPS ITS OFTEN TO GET IT WORK. SO A REALLY IMPORTANT PART OF THE VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY AND AS WE SPEND DOLLARS WE'VE ALWAYS SAID I'M A MOM. YOU NEED TO GET MULTIPLE BENEFITS OF EVERY TAXPAYER DOLLAR WE SPEND. SO THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF JOBS AND GROWING OUR ECONOMY AT A TIME WHEN WE REALLY NEED THAT. IT'S ALSO ABOUT, YOU KNOW, CLIMATE CHANGE AND REDUCING OUR EMISSIONS AND CLEANER AIR. AND THAT'S ABOUT MORE INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES. BECAUSE IF YOU THINK ABOUT WHO RELIES ON PUBLIC TRANSIT T. IS OFTEN PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO OTHER OPTIONS. BUT, OF COURSE, IT'S MOMS, IT'S SENIORS, IT'S FAMILIES. SO IT'S AN INVESTMENT IN OUR FUTURE AS WELL.

Nam says HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DECIDE WHO GETS WHAT, WHAT PROJECT GETS THE MONEY.

The caption changes to "Catherine McKenna. Liberal MP, Ottawa Centre."

McKenna says SO WE'RE LUCKY IN THE SENSE THAT THERE ARE SOME PROVINCES THAT HAVE BEEN REALLY AMBITIOUS IN TERMS OF WHAT THEY'RE LOOKING FOR IN TERMS OF PUBLIC TRANSIT. ONTARIO'S ONE OF THOSE PROVINCES. BRITISH COLUMBIA, QUEBEC. AND SO THERE ARE SOME PROJECTS THERE THAT WE THINK ARE GOOD PROJECTS. OF COURSE, WE NEED TO SEE DETAILS OF PROJECTS. WE DO NEED TO BE MINDFUL OF THE INVESTMENT AND GETTING THE OUTCOMES. BUT I THINK THERE ARE SOME REALLY GOOD OPPORTUNITIES THAT WE CAN MOVE FORWARD ON RELATIVELY QUICKLY. WHICH I THINK IS REALLY IMPORTANT. AS I SAY WE'RE IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS. WE NEED JOBS. AND THEN THERE ARE PROJECTS. YOU KNOW, LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE. SO I KNOW CITIES HAVE CERTAINLY TOLD ME, PLEASE, CAN YOU GIVE US SOME, YOU KNOW, SOME CERTAINTY ON WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE INVESTING IN TRANSIT. AND THAT'S WHY IN THE LONG RUN, PERMANENT PUBLIC TRANSIT FUNDING IS SO IMPORTANT. THESE ARE MAJOR PROJECTS, OFTEN. PROCUREMENTS TAKE A WHILE. WHEN YOU BUY AN ELECTRIC BUS OR, YOU KNOW, YOU BUILD A NEW LRT, YOU REALLY DO NEED TO LOOK OUT INTO THE FUTURE. SO IT MEANS INVESTMENT THAT IS WE'RE ALREADY DOING. IT MEANS NEW INVESTMENTS IN PARTICULAR THAT ARE OPPORTUNITIES RIGHT NOW AND THEN IT'S IN THE LONG TERM INVESTMENTS IN THE FUTURE. BUT THERE ARE PROJECTS THERE THAT I KNOW IN ONTARIO, THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT HAS TALKED ABOUT A NUMBER OF PROJECTS. HAMILTON LRT. AND, AS I SAY, THERE ARE PROJECTS LIKE THAT IN VANCOUVER, IN QUEBEC AS WELL.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Nam says WE'LL TALK MORE ABOUT THOSE PROJECTS. YOU MENTIONED THAT THIS FUNDING IS PERMANENT. THE NEEDS OF TORONTO'S TRANSIT SYSTEM ARE ENDLESS. THE TTC SAYS THAT IT NEEDS 23.2 BILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF WORK JUST TO KEEP THE SYSTEM IN A STATE OF GOOD REPAIR. NOT TO MENTION THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH BUILDING NEW LINES. AND AS YOU MENTIONED, WE'RE IN A PANDEMIC. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE WORKING FROM HOME. SO TRANSIT RIDERSHIP IS LOW. WHAT ABOUT CONSIDERING MAYBE OPERATIONAL FUNDING?

McKenna says THAT'S A REALLY GOOD POINT. WE ALL KNOW THAT BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC, MANY PEOPLE ARE WORKING FROM HOME. AND SO THERE'S BEEN A LOT LESS PEOPLE USING PUBLIC TRANSIT. ALTHOUGH IT'S BEEN REALLY IMPORTANT TO KEEP IT OPERATING BECAUSE ESSENTIAL WORKERS, RESTARTING THE ECONOMY PEOPLE NEED TO GET TO THEIR JOBS, KIDS TO SCHOOL. SO WE HAVE SUPPORTED OPERATING COSTS. THAT'S UNUSUAL. WE DID THAT THROUGH THE SAFE RESTART FUNDING AGREEMENT.

Nam says ISN'T THAT FUNDING RUNNING OUT IN A FEW MONTHS?

The caption changes to "Catherine McKenna, @cathmckenna."

McKenna says WE HAVE SAID THAT'S A START. I THINK WITH THE PANDEMIC IT IS ONGOING AND WE WILL COME TO THE END OF IT. BUT YOU'RE RIGHT. WE HAVE COMMITTED TO WORKING WITH THE MUNICIPALITIES, WITH THE PROVINCES, TO MAKE SURE THAT WE SUPPORT THEM THROUGH THE PANDEMIC. AND I KNOW THIS IS AN ONGOING CONVERSATION WHERE CITIES TO UNDERSTAND HOW DO WE SUPPORT OPERATING COSTS. AND I THINK THAT'S A REALLY IMPORTANT PIECE. I DO KNOW SOME PEOPLE SAY WELL, WHY WOULD YOU INVEST IN PERMANENT PUBLIC TRANSIT FOR THE FUTURE? ISN'T IT GOING TO LOOK DIFFERENT? WE WILL ALWAYS NEED GOOD PUBLIC TRANSIT AND CERTAINLY WHEN WE TALK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE FUTURE WE WANT, WE NEED CITIES AND TOWNS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO HAVE GOOD, ACCESSIBLE, AFFORDABLE, CLEAN TRANSIT FOR THEIR CITIZENS. SO WE NEED TO DO BOTH: HELP GET CITIES THROUGH THE PANDEMIC, HELP WITH OPERATING COSTS TO KEEP RUNNING THEIR SYSTEMS SAFELY AND THEN ALSO WORK WITH THEM TO HELP BUILD FOR THE FUTURE.

Nam says YOU MENTIONED TOWNS AND YOU MENTIONED THE HAMILTON LRT AND I KNOW THAT'S YOUR HOMETOWN. CAROLINE MULRONEY HAS ADDED HAMILTON'S LRT BACK TO THE LIST FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT AND JOIN THE SCARBOROUGH EXTENSION, EGLINTON CROSS EXTENSION AND NORTH YORK TRANSIT EXTENSION. ALL OF THESE ARE IN POPULATED AREAS BUT WHAT DO YOU SAY TO CRITICS WHO SAY THIS FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENT PAYS TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO URBAN AREAS AND NOT ENOUGH TO RURAL AREAS?

McKenna says SO I DO WANT TO BE REALLY CLEAR THAT WE NEED PUBLIC TRANSIT A THE BOARD. WE HAVE ANNOUNCED THAT WE WILL BE SUPPORTING RURAL TRANSIT. THOSE DON'T NECESSARILY HAVE TO BE LARGE PROJECTS BUT THOSE ARE TAILORED TO THE RURAL AREAS. STAY TUNED, WE WILL BE TALKING AND MAKING ANNOUNCEMENTS ABOUT RURAL TRANSIT. AND WE'RE FUNDING RURAL TRANSIT RIGHT NOW. AND IT'S INTERESTING. BECAUSE IT IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. OFTEN, YOU KNOW, THERE AREN'T OTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO GET AROUND. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A CAR AND LIVING YOU LIVE IN A RURAL AREA PUBLIC TRANSIT IS REALLY IMPORTANT. THERE'S EVEN A NEW WAY OF THINKING ABOUT IT. SOME OF THE INVESTMENTS WE'VE BEEN DOING HAVE SUPPORTED NEW TECHNOLOGY. SO ASKS WHERE A TOWN CAN USE ON DEMAND SERVICE. THAT'S GREAT BECAUSE YOU MAY NOT HAVE A HUGE RIDERSHIP BUT YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO BE SUPPORTING RESIDENTS SO YOU CAN BOOK WHEN THEY WANT THE BUS TO COME BY. THAT'S JUST SMARTER USING TECHNOLOGY IN A SMARTER WAY. BUT I THINK WE DO NEED TO NOT FORGET RURAL AREAS AND HOW CRITICALLY IMPORTANT FOR MEMBERS OF THOSE AREAS TO GET AROUND. SOMETIMES IT'S THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET AROUND. YOU MIGHT HAVE TO GO FURTHER DISTANCES. AND I THINK ALSO THINKING ABOUT INTERTOWN TRANSIT IT'S NOT JUST WITHIN THE TOWN. IT CAN BE WITHIN A WIDER AREA. SO THAT IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. THAT'S A TOP PRIORITY OF OURS AS WELL.

Nam says BUILDING TRANSIT IS EXPENSIVE AND 3 BILLION DOLLARS SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SENIOR OF CONSIDER THIS A DROP IN THE BUCKET. WILL THIS BE ENOUGH TO GET PROJECTS OFF THE GROUND?

McKenna says AS I SAY, WE'RE BUILDING ON WHAT'S WORKING. SO WE HAVE 26 BILLION DOLLARS IT'S A PLAN THAT GOES OUT TO 2027 TO INVEST IN PUBLIC TRANSIT. BUT... AND WE'VE BEEN MAKING INVESTMENTS. BUT THERE IS MORE AMBITION. AS I SAY, THESE ARE FOR NEW PROJECTS WHERE WE HAVE ALLOCATED MONEY TO PROVINCES BUT THEY WANT TO DO MORE. AND I THINK THAT'S GREAT. OF COURSE WE NEED TO SEE DETAILS. SO WITH THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT WE'VE REALLY ENCOURAGED THEM TO BRING FORWARD THE DETAILS ABOUT THESE PROJECTS. BECAUSE, OF COURSE, WE NEED TO BE MINDFUL OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS. BUT THIS IS REALLY TO INCREASE THE AMBITION THAT WE'RE ALREADY, YOU KNOW, WE ARE ALREADY INVESTING IN PUBLIC TRANSIT BUT WE THINK WE CAN DO MORE. AND IN TERMS OF THE AMOUNTS, THESE ARE VERY LONG TERM PROJECTS. SO YOU'RE NOT SPENDING ON AN LRT PROJECT OR A NEW SUBWAY LINE. YOU DON'T SPEND ALL THE MONEY IN THE FIRST YEAR, OF COURSE. TAKE A LONG TIME. YOU'VE GOT TO PLAN AND YOU START BUILDING. CONSTRUCTION TAKES A NUMBER OF YEARS. THESE ARE LONG TIME LINES AND, SAY, THE MONEY THAT WE HAVE ISN'T FOR ONE PROJECT AS ONCE IT'S FOR A NUMBER OF PROJECTS AT THE SAME TIME FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS.

Nam says WELL, THE 3 BILLION DOLLARS IS SUPPOSED TO BE KICKING IN IN 2026-27. WHAT IF YOU'RE NOT IN GOVERNMENT THEN? WHY NOT INCLUDE THAT 3 BILLION DOLLARS NOW WHILE YOU'RE IN GOVERNMENT?

McKenna says AS I SAY, WE'RE ALREADY INVESTING IN PUBLIC TRANSIT. SO WE'RE ALREADY MOVING FORWARD ON A WHOLE RANGE OF PROJECTS. THIS IS MONEY THAT WHEN WE TALK TO CITIES, WHEN WE TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES, AS I SAY THIS IS ABOUT BUILDING BACK BETTER BUT ALSO BUILDING BACK SMARTER. WE HEAR ABOUT NEW PROJECTS. AND SO WE HAVE MONEY RIGHT NOW. BUT WE NEED MONEY GOING FORWARD TO MEET THIS AMBITION. AND IN TRANSIT I'LL JUST SAY THIS. I KNOW IT MAY SOUND FUNNY COMING FROM A POLITICIAN. BUT ONE OF THE WORST THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN IN PUBLIC TRANSIT IS EVERY PROJECT IS JUST, YOU KNOW, A POLITICAL OPPORTUNITY. CITIES WHEN I TALK TO THEM, YOU NEED TO PLAN OUT FIVE, TEN, 20, 30 YEARS AND THAT'S WHY IT'S SO IMPORTANT THAT THEY KNOW THAT THERE'S A COMMITMENT BY NOT JUST OUR GOVERNMENT BUT BY ANY GOVERNMENT TO INVEST IN PUBLIC TRANSIT. I WOULD CERTAINLY HOPE THAT ALL FUTURE GOVERNMENTS WOULD VALUE PUBLIC TRANSIT AND THAT THEY WOULD BE COMMITTED TO PERMANENT PUBLIC TRANSIT. BECAUSE IT'S ALSO ABOUT CANADIAN JOBS. THE MANUFACTURING OF MANY OF... TAKE ELECTRIC BUSSES. THE LEADING COMPANIES ARE CANADIAN. LEO ELECTRIC AND NOVA BASS IN QUEBEC. WE HAVE NEW FLYER IN WINNIPEG, MANITOBA. AND WE HAVE BALLARD BUSSES IN B.C. SO THERE'S A JOBS ISSUE. THERE'S ALSO AS YOU HAVE A LONGER LEAD TIME AND YOU CAN PURCHASE IN BULK. SO IT'S JUST ABOUT BEING SMARTER, ABOUT TRANSIT AND ULTIMATELY WHEN I TALK TO PEOPLE, THEY WANT BETTER PUBLIC TRANSIT. BECAUSE IT IMPROVES THEIR QUALITY OF LIFE. IF YOU CAN SAVE AN HOUR, HALF AN HOUR EACH DIRECTION, GETTING TO AND FROM YOUR HOUSE, THINK ABOUT HOW YOU CAN SPEND THAT TIME. YOU CAN HANG OUT WITH YOUR KIDS.

Nam says I USED TO SPEND THREE HOURS IN TRANSITED EVERY DAY. BUT WHEN YOUR GOVERNMENT FIRST CAME TO POWER IN 2015, YOU DID SO WITH A PLAN TO TACKLE WHAT YOU CALLED "CANADA'S INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIT." HOW FAR HAVE YOU COME IN FIVE YEARS?

The caption changes to "Tackling the infrastructure deficit."

McKenna says WELL, WE HAVE A HISTORIC PLAN IN TERMS OF THE QUANTUM OF INVESTMENTS WE'RE MAKING. AND INFRASTRUCTURE. AND IT'S ACROSS THE BOARD. IT'S MY DEPARTMENT. IS MAKING, YOU KNOW, HUGE INVESTMENTS IN PUBLIC... IN INFRASTRUCTURE. AND THAT'S EVERYTHING FROM PUBLIC TRANSIT TO WASTE WATER, TO RENEWABLE ENERGY, TO RURAL BROAD BAND. INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT TO FOLKS. TO ROADS AND BRIDGES. SO WE'VE BEEN MAKING THESE INVESTMENTS. WE'RE CONTINUING TO MAKE THESE INVESTMENTS. JUST THIS YEAR, WHEN I CAME IN ONE OF MY POP TOP PRIORITIES WAS TO MAKE SURE THAT WE COULD MOVE FORWARD AN PROJECTS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE HAVE ALREADY APPROVED 1300 PROJECTS SINCE THE PANDEMIC STARTED. YOU'RE SEEING CONSTRUCTION ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND CERTAINLY IN ONTARIO. YOU GO TO CITIES AND TOWNS ACROSS ONTARIO. THESE ARE GOOD JOBS. GOOD PROJECTS. THEY'RE MAKING A REAL DIFFERENCE IN PEOPLE'S LIVES. AND WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE DOING THAT BECAUSE WE NEED TO INVEST IN INFRASTRUCTURE. IN ECONOMIC TERMS IT'S THE LARGEST DRIVER OF GROWTH. WE'VE COMMITTED TO A MILLION JOBS. IT'S OBVIOUSLY A CRITICAL COMPONENT OF THAT. OFTEN VERY GOOD UNION JOBS BUT A WHOLE RANGE OF JOBS. AND THEN IT'S THE OTHER BENEFITS. IT'S ABOUT TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE. AND WE INVEST IN ELECTRIC BUSSES OR RENEWABLE ENERGY OR BETTER WASTE WATER, ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. SO THE FUTURE WE WANT AND, OF COURSE, INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES. ONE THING I'VE BEEN EXTREMELY FOCUSED ON IS HOW DO WE MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS FAIR DISTRIBUTION OF NEW INVESTMENTS, PROJECTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY? IT CAN'T JUST BE IN WEALTHIER AREAS THAT YOU GET NICE PROJECTS. THAT IT NEEDS TO BE IN AREAS WHERE THERE ARE MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES. THEY DESERVE GOOD COMMUNITY CENTRES. THEY DESERVE GOOD PUBLIC TRANSIT. AND OFTEN YOU'VE SEEN THAT THEY HAVE BEEN LEFT BEHIND. AND I THINK THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME. AND SO INCLUSIVITY LENS IS ALSO SOMETHING WE TAKE TO. IT COULD MEAN RURAL AS WELL. SOMETIMES AS WE SAY THERE IS A LOT OF FOCUS ON URBAN AREAS. BUT GETTING TRIPLE BENEFITS FROM EVERY DOLLAR, GETTING PROJECTS BUILT AT A TIME WHEN WE NEED GOOD JOBS AND WE NEED GROWTH IS TOTALLY MY FOCUS RIGHT NOW.

Nam says THAT'S A GOOD SEGUE TO MY NEXT QUESTION. BECAUSE ANOTHER PROMISE THAT YOUR GOVERNMENT MADE WAS TO PROVIDE INFRASTRUCTURE TO REMOTE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES. THE CANADIAN COUNCIL FOR PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS ESTIMATES THE GOVERNMENT STILL NEEDS TO INVEST ANOTHER 30 BILLION DOLLARS TO CLOSE THE INFRASTRUCTURE GAP IN FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE COMMUNITIES, MANY IN NORTHERN ONTARIO, WHO DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER, SEWAGE TREATMENT OR ADEQUATE POWER?

McKenna says LOOK, WE ARE COMMITTED TO MAKING THOSE INVESTMENTS. WE HAVE MY COLLEAGUE MARK MILLER WHO IS EXTRAORDINARILY FOCUSED ON HOW DO WE TACKLE, FOR EXAMPLE, CLEAN DRINKING WATER AND WE'VE MADE A LOT OF PROGRESS. IS THERE STILL MORE WORK TO DO? ABSOLUTELY. IN MY PORTFOLIO I HAVE TOLD MY DEPARTMENT THAT WE WILL HAVE ON A DISTINCTIONS BASIS, A PERCENTAGE OF MONEY SET ASIDE FOR EVERY DIFFERENT PROGRAM WE HAVE FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES. THAT'S FIRST NATIONS, METIS, INUIT PEOPLES. SO THAT THROUGH MY PROGRAM WE'RE VERY FOCUSED ON MAKING SURE THAT WE'RE SUPPORTING GOOD INFRASTRUCTURE. WE HAVE A CANADA INFRASTRUCTURE BANK. I JUST RELEASED A LETTER THAT SETS OUT THE PRIORITIES FOR THE BANK. SO IT TELLS THE BANK THAT IN ADDITION TO PRIORITIES LIKE PUBLIC TRANSIT, LIKE CLEAN POWER, 1 BILLION DOLLARS NEEDS TO BE INVESTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLES. THERE ARE HUGE OPPORTUNITIES TO PARTNER. AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES ARE VERY SAVVY AND THEY ALSO DESERVE BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE. A GREAT PROJECT THAT WE... THAT CANADA INFRASTRUCTURE BANK JUST ANNOUNCED WAS A PARTNERSHIP WITH A COMPANY CALLED NRSTOR, A FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITY TO CREATE THE LARGEST BATTERY STORAGE FACILITY. I THINK IN NORTH AMERICA. JUST A GREAT EXAMPLE OF A PROJECT THAT CAN BE TRANSFORMATIONAL. AND IT'S ALSO GOING TO PROVIDE DIVIDENDS TO THE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY IN TERMS OF ECONOMIC BENEFITS, IN JOBS AND GOOD INFRASTRUCTURE.

Nam says THE OPPOSITION IS SAYING THAT THERE'S NO MONEY TO SPEND ON THESE PROJECTS. IS THIS THE TIME TO BE SPENDING ON INFRASTRUCTURE WHEN SOME WOULD SAY THAT WE HAVE BIGGER PROBLEMS TO DEAL WITH?

The caption changes to "Building back better?"

McKenna says WELL, IN PEOPLE WANT GROWTH, I AM ASSUMING THE OPPOSITION WANTS GROWTH AND JOBS, THAT'S WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE IS. WHEN YOU BUILD THINGS YOU CREATE GROWTH. YOU CREATE JOBS. AND YOU ALSO MOVE TO THE CLEANER FUTURE. THAT'S OUR FOCUS. AND YOU BUILD MORE INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES. SO I WOULD HOPE THAT EVERYONE WOULD AGREE THAT MAKING INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE IS IMPORTANT. BUT MORE THAN EVER WE'RE IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS. THE GREATEST ECONOMIC CRISIS SINCE THE GREAT RECESSION. THE GREAT DEPRESSION. AND WE NEED TO BUILD OUR WAY OUT OF IT QUITE LITERALLY. AND WE NEED TO BE SMART. AND I AM SOMEONE WHO REALLY BELIEVES WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS YOU DON'T BUILD GAZEBOS, YOU BUILD THINGS THAT ARE GOING TO HAVE MULTIPLE BENEFITS. THEY'RE GOING TO CREATE JOBS, CREATE GROWTH, THEY'RE GOING TO HELP TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE AND THEY'RE GOING TO BUILD MORE INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES AND SUPPORT EVERYONE'S OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED. AND THAT'S WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE IS. IT'S... INFRASTRUCTURE'S KIND OF A MADE-UP BUREAUCRATIC WORD BUT IT'S ABOUT BUILDING THINGS THAT MATTER. AND I THINK THIS IS THE TIME MORE THAN EVER. YOU DON'T HAVE TO TAKE IT FROM ME. THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND HAS SAID THIS. IF YOU LOOK AT THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION, THEIR AMBITION ON INVESTMENTS AND INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE SAME REASONS. FOR JOBS, FOR GROWTH, FOR CLIMATE ACTION AND FOR IP INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES.

Nam says IF IT'S ABOUT GROWTH AND BUILDING THE ECONOMY, I THINK SOMETHING THAT'S ON TOP OF MIND FOR EVERYBODY IS DEALING WITH THIS HEALTH CRISIS. SO WHY NOT SPEND ON BUILDING OUR OWN CAPACITY TO MAYBE MANUFACTURE VACCINES?

McKenna says SO WE'RE DOING THAT. AND I REALLY NEED TO GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO MY COLLEAGUE ANITA ANAND. SHE IS OUR MINISTER OF PROCUREMENT. SHE HAS BEEN WORKING ACROSS THE BOARD TO PROCURE THE VACCINES. AS WELL AS ALL THE ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES WE NEED. BUT WE ALSO HAVE WORKING ON DEVELOPING OUR CAPACITY. THAT TAKES TIME. AND I THINK IT JUST GOES TO THE POINT OF HOW IMPORTANT INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS ARE AND HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO REALLY FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU NEED FOR FUTURE. BECAUSE YOU CAN'T JUST BUILD THINGS IN A DAY. YOU NEED PLANNING AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT WE'RE WORKING VERY HARD ON. SO THAT WE HAVE THE... WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO PRODUCE OUR OWN VACCINES. OF COURSE RIGHT NOW, THE BIGGEST THING ON EVERYONE'S MIND IS MAKING SURE THAT, YOU KNOW, WE CAN GET VACCINES INTO THE ARMS OF CANADIANS RIGHT NOW. AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE DOING. BUT OF COURSE LOOKING TO THE FUTURE, I THINK MORE BROADLY THE PANDEMIC HAS RAISED... I THINK IT'S SHOWN WHERE WE NEED TO DO MORE WORK AS A COUNTRY.

Nam says WHERE IS THAT?

McKenna says THAT IS AFFORDABLE HOUSING. OUR GOVERNMENT IS COMMITTED TO INVESTMENT IN HOUSING. WE'VE MADE MAJOR INVESTMENTS. WE'RE ALSO INVESTING IN MODULAR HOUSING AND ALLOWING CITIES AND TOWNS TO BUY HOTELS TO DEAL WITH THE IMMEDIATE CRISIS. BUT, YOU KNOW, CHILD CARE, WE'VE LOST A LOT OF CHILD CARE SPOTS. WE NEED BETTER AND MORE CHILD CARE. THAT'S AN ECONOMIC ISSUE AS MUCH AS ANYTHING ELSE. THAT'S AN EQUITY ISSUE BUT IT'S ALSO AN ECONOMIC ISSUE. YOU KNOW, WOMEN BEING ABLE TO WORK. WE DON'T WANT THEM DROPPING OUT OF THE WORKFORCE. I THINK LONG-TERM CARE, ANOTHER AREA WHERE WE REALLY NEED TO BE HARD ABOUT HOW ARE WE SUPPORTING OUR SENIORS WHO'VE CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH TO SOCIETY? AND I THINK THESE ARE LESSONS. I'M EMBARKING ON A NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE ASSESSMENT. AND THAT... YOU MIGHT SAY WHY HAVEN'T WE DONE THAT BEFORE, WE'VE HAD A 10-YEAR PLAN OF INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE. BUT NOW WE NEED TO LOOK OUT TO THE FUTURE. WE NEED TO LOOK OUT TO 2050. WE SAID WE'RE GOING TO BE NET ZERO BY 2050. WE NEED TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE, EQUITY AND INCLUSIVITY IS IMPORTANT. SO WE NEED TO THINK REALLY HARD ABOUT WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE DO WE NEED AND HOW ARE WE GOING TO GET THERE? AND, YOU KNOW, HOW IS EVERY LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT GOING TO CONTRIBUTE. BUT ALSO THE PRIVATE SECTOR HAS A ROLE TO PLAY, OUR PENSION FUNDS HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY. I'M REALLY EXCITED. I'M COMING FROM A DIFFERENT PORTFOLIO BEFORE AS MINISTER OF CLIMATE CHANGE, BUT I THINK I TAKE THE SAME PASSION TO GET REAL THINGS DONE IN PEOPLE'S LIVES AND, OF COURSE, TO REALLY THINK HARD ABOUT A CLEANER FUTURE. WE NEED TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE. WE'RE GOING TO GET OUT OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS, THE HEALTH CRISIS. BUT THEN WE STILL HAVE THE CLIMATE CRISIS. AND THAT IS SOMETHING. IF WE USE THE SAME INGENUITY, IF WE LISTEN TO SCIENTISTS, IF WE INNOVATE, IF WE WORK AS A PRIVATE SECTOR I KNOW WE CAN TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE, TOO, AND CERTAINLY INFRASTRUCTURE HAS A REALLY IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY.

The caption changes to "Producer: Sandra Gionas, @sandragionas."

Nam says MINISTER MCKENNA THAT'S ALL THE TIME WE HAVE FOR NOW. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR INSIGHTS WE APPRECIATE THE TIME THIS EVENING. THANK YOU.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

McKenna says THANKS VERY MUCH, I APPRECIATE BEING ON YOUR SHOW.

Watch: Transit Spending to Save Our Cities?