She came to praise federal infrastructure funding but couldn't resist taking a shot at Manitoba's provincial government.
Federal Heritage Minister Shelly Glover, Manitoba's senior cabinet minister, spoke at the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce MBiz Breakfast Series Friday at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg, where she spoke about the federal $14-billion New Building Canada Fund, part of the $53-billion New Building Canada Plan.
After outlining the fund's mandate to offer provinces, cities and smaller communities access to federal money for infrastructure improvements over the next 10 years, Glover chastised the Selinger government for jumping the gun by announcing plans to dig into the fund before the process for accessing it has been finalized.
"And I must say, I have watched, with interest, as the provincial government has recently committed to over a billion dollars, almost $1.4 billion in fact, for infrastructure projects throughout Manitoba," Glover told the assembled group of about 111 representatives from the local business community.
"It is a little unorthodox to read about hundreds of millions of dollars in expected federal infrastructure investments for projects that have never been raised with either myself nor the federal infrastructure minister. We've never seen requests for assistance, no business plans, no proposals, no numbers other than what is contained in news releases."
Glover was likely referring to announcement earlier this week by provincial Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton who said the province, with matching funds from Ottawa, expects to spend $213 million improving the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg to the Saskatchewan boundary.
Last December, Premier Greg Selinger announced six other projects costing $997 million over five years for which matching funding was anticipated from the federal government from the New Building Canada Fund.
"This is not how we do business. We certainly didn't want to pre-empt consideration of projects from across Manitoba by cherry-picking priorities before the new details of New Building Canada Fund had even been announced," Glover said. "We are happy to partner on projects that benefit Manitoba and Manitobans but the New Building Canada Fund is not a blank cheque."
Ashton said he was surprised by Glover's comments and said the provincial government was following usual procedure in announcing projects under its capital plan.
"In the past, what we've done is what we will be doing in this particular case. See what's eligible and we will file all the applications," he said, noting the $250-million pre-commitment for flood-protection money for Lake Manitoba and St. Martin was done the same way.
"That's the way you do it. You make the announcement, you do the engineering work, you get the project ready to go and if there is eligibility for federal funding, we've always made it clear we would be applying. If you look at any of our news releases, they were strictly about our provincial commitment," he said.
"Our approach is that if there's money available for Manitobans, we want to see it accessed."
Local business leaders at the breakfast received a personal assurance from Glover Manitobans will benefit, and soon, from the New Building Canada Fund.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday the framework for the fund has been established.
Glover said Friday the details of the application process are coming.
Provincial highways, major roads and public transit are priorities. Half the funding on total project costs in those areas would come from the federal government.
-- with files from Bruce Owen, Larry Kusch, The Canadian Press