Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising to leave infrastructure decisions in the hands of municipalities, providing a welcome signal to increasingly antsy mayors.
Mr. Trudeau made the comments in a speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Winnipeg. He said Ottawa will focus on setting overall objectives as to how the billions in promised infrastructure should be spent, listing climate change and promoting economic growth as examples.
“We’re leaving the project selection to the experts: you,” he said.
The Liberal government’s March budget promised to double federal infrastructure spending to $120-billion over 10 years. About $12-billion in new money was made available in the short term for projects focused on repairing existing infrastructure. The remaining money will start to be released next year as part of what the government calls the second phase of its infrastructure plan.
Yet even though the budget promised to make the first phase cash available “right away,” mayors have expressed concern with federal rules and hurdles involved in applying for the cash. On Thursday, they specifically called for a process that did not involve federal officials signing off on each and every project.
Municipalities are advocating for a transfer system that is similar to the federal gas tax. Ottawa transfers $2-billion to municipalities annually under the program and is supposed to receive detailed reports on how the money was spent.