OTTAWA - Federal NDP leader Jack Layton pledged today an NDP government would help build an underpass at Plessis Road.
Layton waded into the issue unexpectedly Monday as his party is gaining strength in the polls and challenging the Liberals for second place behind the Conservatives.
In a news release Layton said the city and province have identified the Plessis underpass as a priority project but that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have not offered support for it.
An NDP government would commit one-third of the costs from the NDP’s promised urban infrastructure programs, the release said.
The underpass would ease traffic tie-ups resulting from train traffic at Plessis Road and Dugald Road.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger committed to the project in the recent provincial budget and reconfirmed support for the project April 21. A provincial news release that day said the province would commit one-third of the estimated $50 million cost to twin Plessis Road and build the underpass.
It cost $48 million to build an underpass on Kenaston Boulevard near Wilkes Avenue to end train-related traffic congestion. That project was completed in 2006.
Vic Toews, Manitoba’s regional cabinet minister in the federal government, said if the city and province support it, he’d follow suit but said no firm commitments could be made during the election.
Apparently not the case for Layton.
Last week, outspoken Winnipeg city councillor Russ Wyatt announced he was endorsing the Conservative candidate in Elmwood-Transcona because Lawrence Toet supports the underpass.
Wyatt is a well known NDP supporter.
NDP incumbent MP Jim Maloway, who has long been in favour of the underpass, only won the riding by a little over 1,000 votes in 2008, competing against Conservative star candidate Thomas Steen. Steen went on to be elected to Winnipec city council last fall.
Both Layton and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will be in Winnipeg this week wooing voters.
Ignatieff on Tuesday night for a rally at Winnipeg South candidate Terry Duguid’s campaign office at 2866 Pembina Highway. Layton will be at the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, 45 Robinson Street, in Winnipeg North for a rally and breakfast Wednesday morning.