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This article was published 22/3/2016 (818 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Winnipeg’s water and waste-water projects and transit system could be among the biggest winners from infrastructure programs unveiled in Tuesday’s federal budget.
The infrastructure program is laid out in two phases. The first is a five-year, $11.9-billion program that will focus on transit ($3.4 billion over three years), green infrastructure, such as water and waste-water and greenhouse gas reduction projects ($5 billion over five years), and social infrastructure such as affordable housing and child care ($3.4 billion over five years).
"We all benefit when infrastructure is improved," Finance Minister Bill Morneau said.
"Consider something as simple as traffic jams," he said. "Everyone knows they’re annoying. But they also slow the movement of people, goods and services — they actually hurt the economy."
The new public transit infrastructure fund will be doled out based on each province’s share of transit ridership. Manitoba, with 2.45 per cent of the nation’s transit users, will get 2.45 per cent of the money, or $82.8 million over the next three years. About a quarter of the money will be provided in 2016-17, half in 2017-18 and the remainder in 2018-19.
The lion’s share of that money will go to Winnipeg. The only other transit systems in the province are in Brandon, Thompson and Portage la Prairie.
The new clean water and waste-water fund will provide $2 billion over four years to provincial, territorial and municipal governments to repair water distribution systems and sewage-treatment systems. Three quarters of that money is to be spent in the first two years.
Ottawa will pay up to half the cost of projects under both the transit and waste-water funds, a departure from the typical three-way split for infrastructure projects between Ottawa, the provinces and municipalities.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman gave the federal budget a thumbs up.
"From what I’ve been able to see so far, it’s very encouraging," Bowman said, fresh out of an eight-hour city council meeting that debated and approved the city’s 2016 budget.
Bowman said he was only able to get a fleeting grasp of Tuesday’s federal budget announcements, but said he expects Winnipeggers will benefit on some of the big-ticket infrastructure projects the city has on its drawing board.
"We’ve already been in contact with the federal government on how we might be able to secure some of the funds that we’re announced today," Bowman said, adding it seems possible Ottawa will pick up a bigger share of future rapid transit costs and even part of the $1-billion upgrades to the city’s three sewage treatment plants.
"I do need go through it in a greater detail, so in the coming days I’ll be able to provide you with something more definitive once I’ve had a chance to review it."
Overall, the infrastructure package is smaller than what was promised during last fall’s election campaign, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $5 billion in new money in each of the next two years. Instead, the Liberals plan to add a total of $6.8 billion over the next two years to existing infrastructure programs.o
The Finance Department estimates infrastructure investments in 2016 will raise Canada’s gross domestic product by 0.5 per cent and create 43,000 jobs in 2016-17.
Included in the budget is $248 million for a new, permanent outlet channel between Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin. Last summer, the province and federal government jointly announced the $495-million project. Ottawa’s share was supposed to be $165 million and the province was expected to pay the rest. There is no explanation yet for the increased federal funding for the project.
Premier Greg Selinger said he was pleased Ottawa came through with flood protection and other infrastructure support.
"The budget makes a significant commitment to investing in infrastructure, which is very important stimulus that we need in the country right now with a slower economy. We’re pleased to see that. That aligns very closely with what we’re proposing to do in terms of growing the economy in Manitoba."
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister sees the infrastructure investments as an important opportunity for the province — if the money is invested wisely.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to benefit by strategic infrastructure investments that will pay back over the long term," Pallister said.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari repeatedly declared that her party and the federal Liberals are aligned and hold the same values.
"What stood out for me is rapid transit," she said, also citing money for flood protection: "Having that is fantastic."
— with files from Aldo Santin, Larry Kusch, Kristin Annable and Nick Martin