Numbers, crunched.


Glen and Stephen have been busy.

The Citizen-Chronicle Herald analysis took all the Building Canada projects on the actionplan.gc.ca website — where they are given an exact location but no exact dollar figure — and paired them with dollar figures available from other federal government sources. The analysis then added other projects announced on the federal infrastructure site.

It was not possible to find dollar figures for all the projects without locations, or to find locations for all the projects with dollar figures, so the database of about 4,200 projects is incomplete. But it offers the only independent large-scale look at the massive infrastructure spending push.

My bold.

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Numbers, crunched.

  1. But…but…scandal! Shameless pork-barreling on a scale never-before-seen! Surely the Liberal spin on this topic couldn't just be sloppy research, misinformation, and severe hyperbole, could it?

    • Actually, it's sort of funny.

      "found that across the country, Conservative ridings received $4.7 billion, more than half of the $8.5 billion announced"

      OMG! More than half. And the Conservatives have how many ridings: 143/308, which is 46%. They received 55% of the funding.

      46%. 55%. We are talking about 9%.

      This is supposed to be news.

      • But it's better than that because you ought to take out the Quebec ridings – so the Conservative seat share is 133/233, or 57%.

        • LOL. A more appropriate headline would be "Canadian government distributing stimulus funds fairly and equitably".

          • 1/3 of the data is incomplete you dolts.

          • Do you have a point?

  2. As further embarrassment to the many of us who don't understand how Canadian journalism works, the research was apparently assisted by interns/volunteers from journalism school…Now, if only somebody could figure out why the federal government doesn't have a shareable database on these projects. Is there some reason we can't surmise it's because the federal government has never tracked projects this quickly and comprehensively before?

    Also, what about the two maps Aaron pointed to last week which contained nearly identical analysis (e.g. http://eaves.ca/2009/10/30/the-stimulus-map-open-… Quebec pulls the opposition averages down, many opposition MPs have done well and the Conservative average is pulled up by some high-performing ridings (e.g. Kenora).

    • Maybe the Government of Harper relies on political science students who don't know how to do anything useful.

      • Could be. Do you think they should replace them with journalism students?

    • Just ask them for a printout, and John Baird will oblige.

  3. "The subway project points to one of the challenges of analyzing the funding on a per-riding basis. The project was first announced by Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2007. It will not be completed until 2015. The federal government is including it as part of its Economic Action Plan, which tracks short-term stimulus spending, arguing that it has accelerated approvals for funding already earmarked."


    Sigh. Is it too late too count building the CP Railway as part of the Economic Action Plan?

    • Send your idea to 22 minutes or Mercer.

  4. Riding by riding stuff in large metropolitan areas was a foolish exercise to begin with. I live in one riding, and commute through a second one to work in a third. I mostly shop in a fourth. A major public infrastructure improvement project does not only benefit the voters of the riding where that one subway tunnel may be. The construction workers live all over, the engineering company might even be in another province, and the commuters (using a transportation infrastructure example) may mostly live outside the riding.

    That's assuming you accept the wisdom of throwing out your children's credit rating because you can't politically handle an economic downturn to begin with. Which I don't.

  5. I just don't buy that Charest, Campell, McGuinty etc conspired to make Harper look good,
    by selecting more/bigger projects in CPC ridings…it's just silly.

    • Hey, Wilson — promise me a cool grand — I'll make even YOU look good. Actually, that'll beTWO grand — now that I think about it. Three if you delay.

    • See, the point is, money talks. You must be a fool, if you do not realize that your hero has betrayed you.

  6. now that the Ottawa Citizen has revealed that (outside of Quebec) the Conservatives have about 60% of the seats and received about 60% of the stimulus spending, will polls still show the public believe stimulus spendng has been distributed on a partisan baisis? Will the Globe make this a headline?

  7. If the stimulus spending was so fair and equitable, why did it take a newspaper and a bunch of journalism students to provide a clear picture of what was spent where? If the news is so good, why isn't Canada's New and Improved Government just telling us what they're doing?

    What do they have to hide?

    • Probably the fact that the civil service has never reported on projects this quickly and comprehensively before and so wasn't quite prepared to do so.

      • I would accept this if the government would explain what they plan to report, when they plan to report it, and how they plan to report it. Instead they're letting out dribs and drabs of information, mostly in the form of novelty cheques. I don't know if you think that's reasonable, but I sure don't.

        • It may not seem reasonable, but it's worth remembering that it is how the federal government has always reported on its spending, along with annual reports like the Supplementary Estimates, Department Performance Reports and other annual reports to Parliament. The only reason there are quarterly updates on the stimulus spending is because of Ignatieff's demand for them. But his demand, however well-intentioned, couldn't instantly transform the civil service's reporting mechanisms.

          • So they can spend the stimulus money faster than they can keep track of it? You know, when we're talking billions of dollars, I wouldn't mind if someone — say an ADM or something — were to look over the cheques and maybe write down somewhere how much they were for and where they went.

            I know, I know, I'm simplifying it. But if they aren't doing this, then they're incompetent. This is a big, banner program that they crow about endlessly. They shouldn't be able to do that unless they can say with certainty where the money has gone.

          • The civil service has no mechanism for reporting in a centralized way on a program that stretches across several departments. Individual departments have no way of reporting within weeks on individual projects. All the money is tracked and accounted for, but often at a level below ADM and across several divisions in multiple departments. The reporting that is suddenly expected just requires two systems that don't exist.

    • The example the reporter provided, of how difficult it was for numerous hard-worker eager beavers to discover a very rough estimate of the true numbers, must give thoughtful people some image of how difficult it would be for civil servants to do the same work. Most departments, and divisions inside departments, plainly do not have access to data from other groups in the same government, let alone the restrictions and limits on access between national and provincial, or provincial and local. In many cases, it is flatout, severely illegal for a government worker to even attempt to access data from another department or government.

      • Simply not true. The question being asked is "how much is being spent where from the stimulus package?" This is money spent in the last few months, in response to applications made from municipalities and such.

        Are you trying to say that they give out those big cheques without keeping a record of it? Because if they are, someone should tell them maybe to write it down when they do that. And maybe send an e-mail to the minister.

      • A few comments on you comments which, I will acknowledge, appear to be your own thoughts and not mere regurgitated Tory talking points. For that, I thank you.

        Nevertheless, I would point out that Harper and co. are emphatically and unreservedly and unequivocably stating that (1) 90% is out the door/committed and (2) it is being distributed fairly and equally across the country.

        So either they don't know the facts and are lying, know the facts and are lying or have different facts but don't want to share with us, their voting bosses and funders.

        The information is also claimed to be on the website. It isn't.

        Finally, I note by comparison and contrast the much much bigger stimulus spending by Obama. Every single project you can look up on the government website and find out how much federal money to the dollar was approved, the status of the project, when the money is expected to be actually spent, how much has actually been spent.

        • It's possible to know that 90% is committed and that it's under fair and equitable rules without being able to report the details of each project in a coherent, centralized way. The amount of information that civil service has provided in such a short time is unprecedented. It's also turned out to be surprisingly easy to analyse – see http://maps.webfoot.com/demos/CanadianStimulus/Ca… for an excellent example. The ignorance and unrealistic expectations of reporters seems to be the major factor spinning this story against the government.

        • The US media's been demanding this kind of info for decades. Traditionally ours hasn't been nearly so hard-working.

          As an accountant I find it rather hard to believe they can't print out a list of all cheques written, to whom & for how much, and hire a bunch of interns to sort it out. If they can't, their accounting system has some serious design flaws.

          It would be interesting to see how different types of projects align to whose ridings. Apparently educational & high-tech spending skews to non-Conservative ridings. This makes sense; ridings with universities, colleges & high-tech firms don't tend Conservative. Highway spending should skew to rural, Conservative ridings. Subtract the types of spending that gravitate to Conservative & non-Conservative ridings, & we might have something resembling information.

          Oops. Said the "I" word.

  8. The Economic Stimulus Fund is a fund voted in by Parliament, right? It has a dollar figure in the fund, above which we may not go? So if you are including projects begun in 2007 (spending approved in another fund) as part of that fund, are we going to be spending the full dollar amount of the fund voted in by Parliament? Let's say the total Economic Stimulus Fund is 13 billion (I have no idea what it is). If we include the 697 million subway extension, does that mean we're only spending 12.3 billion as the *real* Economic Stimulus? This could be a good thing, I'm just asking.

    • I don't think so – in explaining the $12B in infrastructure stimulus, Budget 2009 talks about "Accelerating up to $1 billion in payments over two years under the Provincial-Territorial Base Funding Initiative to expedite “ready-to-go” infrastructure projects." The subway projects seem to fall into that category. You can read the fuller description of the fund in the budget document at http://www.budget.gc.ca/2009/home-accueil-eng.asp

      • Hey thanks! Accelerating 1 billion, while adding 12 billion of new monies to those types of projects. A simple answer to a simple question. Good stuff, I love these boards.

  9. Second, each piece of information is not resting in a file somewhere on a computer, clearly labeled with its contents. On the contrary. Some, or most hard data in government offices only exists on paper, in file cabinet drawers in file folders with utterly obscure, meaningless labels, often just a date. When we include provincial governments, the data on one project may be on peices of paper scattered in small local offices across the entire continent, little local offices that cannot spare one worker for one hour merely to look for a piece of paper that might not be there. Multiple that by 5,000, and a citizen could have some image of how gargantuan the task of collecting all the data on the Building Canada plan would be. Finding a comprehensive list of costs could take 500 workers all across Canada 500 hours, an expensive that very few citizens would consider money well spent.

    • You mean that they've handed out $34B over six months or so, and they don't know where?

      They're not trying to find the patent for a buggy whip or an original copy of the Treaty of Ghent. They're trying to find recent data. If the minister can't provide it, he should resign in shame. They can give him his pension in novelty cheque format if he likes.

  10. Finally, the reporter missed a trick. There are plenty of engineering and construction magazines in Canada, but not an infinite number. Looking through the past year of back issues would show any research team the articles about projects various companies were taking on, the ads the three levels of government had placed, for Request for Proposals, for Requests for Bids, and so on. The crew could likely have put the information together in one-tenth the time by just looking at the relevant, pertinent, specialty magazines published in Canada every month. Trust a reporter to never think of researching the media for what he wanted to know.

    • An RFP is not going to tell anyone (a) the cost of the project (b) whether there are federal funds in the project (c) whether the federal funds are part of the EAP or not (though it seems any spending of any kind is being called part of the Economic Action Plan by Harper or (d) if the project actually went ahead even though it was RFP'd.

  11. Finally, and most importantly, all amounts of spending are approved by the minister and in the budget.

    I respect the difficult burden this EAP is on the civil servants. But if they are not collecting and reporting on this it is because their political masters don't want it to be.

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