Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley pledge $700 million infrastructure cash
New money could flow within weeks or months to city projects.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley announced Wednesday Alberta could soon have more than $700 million in federal dollars to send people to work building roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The Trudeau government has said recently it wants to expedite $13.1 billion in existing, national infrastructure cash allocated by the previous Conservative government, but never spent.
Of that money, $704 million is earmarked for Alberta.
Following a meeting at the legislature Wednesday, Trudeau confirmed the money is coming Alberta's way — shortly.
“The federal government is committed to fast-track infrastructure investments for Alberta and, indeed, all provinces and territories,” Trudeau said.
“Obviously, Albertans are facing challenging times right now and this is an excellent opportunity to invest in infrastructure projects that will get people to work.”
Notley said the government was reviewing the projects that had applied for funding and announcements were imminent.
“There has been a very engaged conversation about what our projects should be and how we can get this money flowing faster,” she said. “We really are talking a matter of months, weeks to months.”
But not all of the asks Notley made were addressed during Trudeau's short visit to Edmonton.
Notley said she pushed Trudeau to make changes to Employment Insurance that will broaden access for laid-off energy workers.
But Trudeau didn’t make any commitments around EI, noting instead that his party campaigned on easing access to the program in times of need.
Former city councilllor Amarjeet Sohi, who is now the federal infrastructure minister and who was accompanying Trudeau, said Ottawa is reviewing projects in Alberta, as well as across the country, and wanted to see the money start moving.
“Our goal will be to get those project approved as quickly as possible, as the premier mentioned it will be a matter of weeks, maybe months depending on the complexity of the project,” he said.
Sohi said the city would likely have to provide matching dollars to the federal cash, but the project will help cushion the effect of a bad economy.
“I absolutely understand the challenges that our families in Alberta are facing and we want to get Albertans to work,” he said.
Edmonton has already received $150 million under the Building Canada program for the Valley Line LRT project, but has outstanding applications for federal money for rail separations at 50th and 75th Street, as well as for upgrades to the Yellowhead.
Mayor Don Iveson, who's in Ottawa for a meeting of the Big City Mayor’s caucus, said he was excited about the announcement and hoped to get more details.
“This is the sort of questions we will be getting answers to in Ottawa over the next 48 hours.
"We have been asking for years for that money to flow quickly and I am glad the government is committed to moving.”