The federal government’s record on the environment is questionable. One thing the Conservatives are good at, though, is the recycling of promises and programs.

A good example of such recycling is last week’s announcement of a $634-million infrastructure agreement between the federal and Nova Scotia governments.

Some of the cash will come from the Building Canada Fund, and some from an extension of the existing gasoline-tax funding agreement. There will also be $25 million per year in base funding that will last until 2014.

“Great news,” said a beaming Premier Rodney MacDonald as he shared the announcement stage with provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Murray Scott, federal ACOA Minister Peter MacKay, federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon and provincial Economic Development Minister Angus MacIsaac.

And why shouldn’t the premier smile? After all, $634 million is a lot of money, even though some will be spread over the next seven years.

But much of this largesse is old money recycled as new funding, according to the acting president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

“The $25-million (annual) base fund, that’s been announced at least three times that I can recall,” Charles Cirtwill said. “The gas-tax transfer to municipalities, that’s been announced twice before.”

Cirtwill prefers income-tax cuts and direct municipal taxation to federal-government transfers, which he feels lack accountability.

Yet for all Cirtwill’s criticism, he still welcomes the infusion of cash to infrastructure renewal. The province’s participation in the global economy literally rides on the condition of our roads and bridges, and they need all the funding they can get.

The timing of the announcement is interesting. It came in advance of the latest date, Nov. 20, for an often-rescheduled briefing on the latest version of the recycled – or, perhaps spin-cycled – equalization deal. MPs Bill Casey and Rodger Cuzner requested the briefing. The infrastructure announcement could be a prelude to a more acceptable offshore agreement – or a hedge against disappointing news.

What we need is funding that’s announced once, then delivered – and agreements that are honoured rather than spun.