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Feds try to close gaps on infrastructure data

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OTTAWA—A major effort is underway to collect the most detailed data yet on the state of the country's roads, bridges, water pipes, and transit systems.

Statistics Canada quietly launched a national survey late last month to get an unprecedented level of granular detail on the state of infrastructure at the provincial and municipal level.

Urban and rural municipalities will have until November to respond to the questionnaire, and StatsCan officials say they expect to have the first results ready by next summer.

Collecting the information is imperative for the Liberal government's economic agenda.

It wants to ensure that $186.7 billion in planned federal infrastructure spending over the next 12 years targets large projects that drive growth regionally or nationally and not smaller, local projects with no widespread impact.

StatsCan plans to use the data from the survey, and expand the national information it currently collects about infrastructure value and spending, to determine the effects on the economy, productivity, and jobs and the government's fiscal outlook.

The Liberals have set a series of goals for the spending, including boosting economic growth, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, making it easier to get around in Canada's busiest cities, and reducing homelessness.

Pages of briefing notes and presentations obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act lay out how these efforts have taken shape in the last year, and outline the challenge in obtaining data commensurate with the overall size of the federal investment.

A briefing note for Infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi for a Feb. 14 meeting said that achieving federal goals will depend on provinces, territories, and cities putting forward projects for funding that meet the stated goals.

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