OTTAWA - The Harper government is well aware of how many jobs are being created through its massive infrastructure stimulus spending but is embarrassed to publish the numbers, the Liberals are charging.
The Conservatives have always maintained that they do not track the job creation that stems from their $16-billion effort to cushion the blow of the recession.
But Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy produced paperwork on Tuesday from the Ottawa-Ontario agreement on the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. The form shows that the federal government required municipalities to report how many jobs they expected to create.
Kennedy said similar protocols exist for other stimulus programs such as the Knowledge Infrastructure Program and Recreational Infrastructure Canada, requiring recipients of federal money to report how many positions they intend to create, and over what time period.
"They know. What they don't want to do is tell," Kennedy told reporters. "They're doing that for one reason. It's because their projects are failing."
He accused the Conservatives of suppressing that information from the public because the job-creation numbers are shamefully low. He said his research has shown that only a small proportion of the projects that have been announced are actually underway, implying weak job creation so far.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is releasing his fourth update on stimulus spending Wednesday in Winnipeg. Federal sources say he will report that 12,000 projects have been announced so far, with 8,000 of them already underway.
Transport Minister John Baird, who controls the largest pot of infrastructure money, ignored requests from Kennedy that he release details on jobs and construction progress to date.
Instead, he pointed to an economic rule-of-thumb used by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that calculates 11,000 new jobs for every $1-billion in infrastructure investment.
"The Economic Action Plan is working," Baird told the House of Commons, inviting Kennedy to travel around and count the promotional signs erected at many of the government projects.
An analysis by The Canadian Press of the available stimulus data has shown that the distribution of government funds heavily favours Conservative ridings. A second analysis has shown that there is no correlation between the amount of stimulus and areas of high unemployment.
And employment data from Statistics Canada suggests the government is far behind its targets for job creation. The government is counting on its stimulus program creating or maintaining 190,000 jobs by the end of 2010.