Statistics Canada is launching its first ever catalogue on the state of Canada’s infrastructure.
Canada's Core Public Infrastructure Survey (CCPI) will, according to the Statistics Canada website, "collect statistical information on the inventory, condition, performance and asset management strategies of core public infrastructure assets owned or leased by various levels of the Canadian government or by indigenous entities."
"The federal government has a plan for a way forward on infrastructure, and wanted to determine how best to determine policy. Infrastructure Canada appointed StatsCan to gather the data," said Statistics Canada chief of special surveys Chris Johnston.
The assets examined will include bridges and tunnels, roads, wastewater, stormwater, potable water and solid waste as well as cultural and recreational facilities and transit. Public and affordable housing assets will also be examined.
Questionnaire content was developed jointly by Statistics Canada and Infrastructure Canada and the documents will be sent to all urban municipalities, with some rural municipalities also covered based on the size of the municipality. "It will be a census of all rural municipalities that have a population over 5,000," Johnston said.
Regional, provincial and territorial governments will also be surveyed along with a sample of First Nation and northern communities.
"The First Nations questionnaire will launch in mid-September and it will be customized for the First Nations population," Johnston said.
Statistics Canada is working with industry stakeholders such as the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, he said.
CCA chair Chris McNally said the new Liberal government wanted to know what areas of infrastructure were a priority and where money should be spent, and the CCA has experience creating infrastructure report cards for the Canadian construction industry.
"A steering committee is helping with questions, because we have experience with doing it and we know what level of detail to ask for," McNally said. "We're bringing what we learned by doing it ourselves in the weeds with the municipalities."
"The focus is on collecting information on the number of assets in a municipality and the state they're in at present," Johnston said. "What sort of work has been done to maintain those assets? With water infrastructure, how many times, if any, have they had a boil water advisory?"
McNally said the CCA looks forward to gathering data from the Statistics Canada questionnaire to implement more detailed infrastructure report cards in the future.
"We didn't get every municipality, but Statistics Canada's surveys are mandatory, so we'll get answers from all municipalities," he said.
Once the data is gathered, McNally added, the government can determine policy but groups like the CCA can use the same data to find areas that need to be addressed and advocate for solutions.
"By doing infrastructure report cards, we're giving unbiased information to citizens and encouraging a continued focus on infrastructure," McNally said.
Both CCA's infrastructure report cards and the Statistics Canada infrastructure questionnaires are available online.
"Once the results are in, the government will be in a better position to see what answers the data provides to them for infrastructure," Johnston said. "We'll be following up with municipalities between now and November, and we'll have the results by summer 2018."
Once the results are in, Johnston said, "we'll be having conversations about the lessons learned in the short term. To move forward with policies, they have to wait for the results."