Federal, Ont. Liberals to sign $1.49B transit deal
$688 million worth of projects in five Ontario cities for first recipients.
OTTAWA — The federal treasury is set to crack open its coffers and begin distributing $1.49 billion worth of transit funding among cities in Ontario for track upgrades, new buses, shelters and upgrades to stations.
The announcement will outline $688 million worth of projects in five Ontario cities that are lined up to be the first recipients of the dedicated transit funding.
The federal funds can be used against up to half the costs of eligible projects; the funding is retroactive to April 1 to cover any costs cities and provinces have incurred since then.
About $500 million of the projects being announced Aug. 23 will be in Toronto, with Ottawa next on the list at $156 million.
Waterloo, Barrie and Sudbury, where the federal cabinet just wrapped up a two-day retreat, will receive about $30.6 million combined for 20 projects.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to be in Barrie, about 100 kilometres north of Toronto, to announce the signing of the agreement Aug. 23 alongside Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Federal cabinet ministers are also making announcements Tuesday as the Trudeau government seeks to capitalize politically on the long-awaited deal. Newly minted House leader Bardish Chagger will be in Waterloo, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in Ottawa and Finance Minister Bill Morneau in Toronto, the city that’s getting the majority of the funding destined for Ontario.
The federal Liberals are betting that the $6.6 billion set aside this year and next for infrastructure work – the first infusion of a promised extra $60 billion over 10 years – will help kick-start the economy and pad government coffers with new tax revenue that will help bring the budget back to balance.
The federal government has also been pushing to spend the money quickly so as not to miss the summer construction season, but has been stymied by provincial delays in finalizing funding wish lists, including Ontario. Under the new federal program, provinces are required to fill half of their funding wish lists before Ottawa can begin distributing the money.
An Ontario government source with knowledge of the deal being announced said the province is using a streamlined funding process to get money to municipalities as soon as possible.
Federal officials say Ontario has yet to finalize a funding wish list of water and wastewater projects, something that it must do over the coming months to get $570 million for projects like water treatment facility upgrades and sewers. Similar work is ongoing in British Columbia, which – like Ontario – signed a transit funding deal first, given the volume of outstanding work required.
The federal government must still sign agreements with Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Saskatchewan has said it has concerns that cities could cut corners on work or planning in order to meet the federal government’s deadline of March 2018 for the completion of new construction or expansion projects.
The infrastructure money this year and next is focused on repairing Canada’a aging water and public transit infrastructure, as well as for smaller projects that can be completed by 2019.
There is also money available for planning larger projects that are to be the focus of the second and more lucrative phase of the Liberal infrastructure program.