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Federal Liberals thinking of picking up a bigger share of infrastructure costs – CP

by ahnationtalk on January 18, 2016377 Views

Source: The Canadian Press
Jan 17, 2016

By Jordan Press


SAINT ANDREWS, N.B. _ Canada’s infrastructure minister says the federal government is considering changing the way it traditionally funds construction projects and pick up more of the tab.

Most infrastructure projects that receive federal funding require provinces and municipalities to pony up matching funds, splitting the costs three ways.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi says that could change given what he’s been hearing from provincial and local officials about “capacity gaps” that hinder making projects a reality.

“I don’t want to presuppose the outcomes of those discussions, but we have heard from our partners about capacity issues,” Sohi said.

He said the government will decide “whether we continue to be one-third partners, or we come up with different way of increasing that support.”

He says his department is trying to fast-track spending for approved projects that are waiting in the queue for federal dollars to help prod a sluggish economy. He says the department is also going to try to quickly approve projects that provinces put forward for funding just as soon as they give the government their funding wishlists.

“As quickly as we get the lists, we will start to review them. Some of the projects are under review and some of the projects have already been signed off on,” Sohi told reporters before heading into his first cabinet meeting of the year.

“I did sign off on a number of projects in the last couple of weeks and there are other projects that we are currently reviewing because our goal is to get the money out into the communities.”

The money is supposed to be evenly split between green projects that have an environmental aspect, such as water or wastewater treatment facilities, “social” infrastructure like daycares and affordable housing, and public transit projects like light rail systems.

Insiders have told The Canadian Press the Liberals are “actively” considering speeding up delivery of the new infrastructure spending the government pledged in the election to help stimulate economic growth through 2016.

A slumping loonie, declining oil prices, and disappointing job numbers have combined to cast a shadow over the first federal cabinet meeting of 2016 that is taking place far away from Parliament Hill.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been hearing concerns about the economy from Canadians during his pre-budget consultations and is expected to give his cabinet colleagues an update over the next 24 hours.

The federal budget is expected to be delivered in mid- to late-March.

The Liberals had vowed to run deficits of no more than $10 billion this year and next, but have since shifted to calling the figure a target.

House leader Dominic Leblanc, the senior Liberal from New Brunswick, said the budget will honour the party’s campaign commitments _ notwithstanding the economic news, which has been “a longstanding concern of the government.”

“We didn’t come to the concern about the Canadian economy and jobs and economic growth last week,” he said before the cabinet meeting.

“We were talking about that for many many months and we intend to implement the plan that we think will help Canadians.”

Cabinet ministers will have a full day of meetings Monday before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a handful of minister travel overseas to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

The retreat kicked off Sunday afternoon when a crowd of about 100 people, some holding signs welcome signs, greeted Trudeau upon his arrival.

Trudeau didn’t stop to speak to reporters on his way into a working dinner.

The strategy session is designed to give cabinet ministers a “bird’s-eye view of 2016” to decide what the government want to accomplish this year, and how will it manage some of the ongoing issues, Leblanc said.

Leblanc said it is also an opportunity for cabinet ministers to get to know each other, given that some of them had never met until their swearing ceremony at Rideau Hall in early November.



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