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$539M for Transit as stalled cost-shared funding flows

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OTTAWA — Winnipeg Transit will get an injection of a half-billion dollars after the three levels of government settled a squabble that held up federal funds for years, the Free Press has learned.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/07/2022 (210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Winnipeg Transit will get an injection of a half-billion dollars after the three levels of government settled a squabble that held up federal funds for years, the Free Press has learned.

The $539-million announcement, taking place this morning at a park-and-ride site, will mean greener, faster buses that can better accommodate people in wheelchairs.

The funding comes from all three levels of government, nearly all of it through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, a cost-sharing deal the federal Trudeau government rolled out in its first term.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A $539-million injection into Winnipeg Transit will mean greener, faster buses that can better accommodate people in wheelchairs. A bus passes by on Main St. outside City Hall on Tuesday. Transit is now asking commuters to wear a mask while on transit. Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Reporter: Joyanne

The agreement has Ottawa pay 40 per cent of a project’s cost if the province agrees to cover at least a third, with the rest falling to municipalities. For Manitoba, the goal was to spur a combined $3 billion in new infrastructure over the course of a decade.

Under former premier Brian Pallister, Manitoba was one of the last provinces to sign onto the deal, after a dispute over how to pay for Interlake-region flood-prevention channels.

After Manitoba signed in 2018, it quickly became one of the slowest provinces to apply for the cash. The PC government sought to constrain spending, and chafed against federal criteria Ottawa eventually loosened.

By May 2021, about 40 small projects had been approved for Manitoba and another 24 were under review, though none were big-ticket items, according to a federal analysis obtained by the Free Press.

By the time Pallister announced his resignation in August 2021, Manitoba had requested just 46 per cent of its allocated $1.16 billion of federal funding, leaving millions on the table.

Premier Heather Stefanson has rectified that gap since taking office in November.

In April, the federal budget revealed Manitoba had leapfrogged most provinces, putting in requests for 99 per cent of its allocated cash.

As a result, four years after signing the deal, governments will announce today $280 million to purchase zero-emission buses and $200 million to replace the North End transit garage.

There will also be a $17-million upgrade for radio and communication systems, $13 million to retrofit buses for wheelchairs, and $7 million to design downtown rapid-transit corridors.

Broken down by level of government, just over $200 million will come from Ottawa, the province is paying about $170 million, while the City of Winnipeg is covering $165 million, including a $30-million top-up beyond the money in the cost-sharing deal.

A similar announcement is expected in the coming weeks under the infrastructure plan to complete upgrades of the north end sewage treatment plant.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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