Edmonton 'not in a hurry' to spend fast-tracked infrastructure dollars, mayor says

The federal government has committed to fast-track $700 million infrastructure dollars to Alberta, but Mayor Don Iveson said the city is “not in a hurry” to spend it this year, if the city gets a share.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said $7 to $8 billion are currently unallocated and available

Mayor Don Iveson reacted to news of the federal government fast tracking $700 million to Alberta for Infrastructure from Ottawa, where he attended the Big City Mayors' Caucus. (CBC)

The federal government has committed to fast-track $700 million infrastructure dollars to Alberta, but Mayor Don Iveson said the city is "not in a hurry" to spend it this year, if the city gets a share.

The money is intended to spur the economy and job creation in Alberta, which has been hit hard by falling commodity prices. The federal government has stressed the need to invest quickly in shovel-ready projects.

But Iveson said Edmonton has been relatively sheltered from the economic downturn, and the money would be better spent cushioning the city from future impacts.  

"We've stayed out of recession, though growth has certainly slowed," he said. "I think Edmonton really needs the construction investments in 2017 and 2018."

The money comes from unspent dollars in the Building Canada Fund, which were set aside by the previous government in 2014.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the previous government left between $7 billion and  $8 billion unallocated, which he intends to dole out as soon as possible.

The criteria to apply for those funds have not been released to municipalities.

Edmonton doesn't know how much, if any, of those funds will go toward city projects. All the projects approved in council's capital plan for the next three years are already fully funded.

In the last year, Edmonton has applied for dollars from the Building Canada Fund to build improvements to Yellowhead Trail, as well as 50th Street and 75th Street rail crossings. Those applications are still pending.

"I can't build an interchange like that in one year," Iveson said.

Iveson suggested Edmonton could use the funds for planning, design and land acquisition to get projects ready for future construction seasons.

"They'll still create jobs, recognizing the shovels might not go into the ground for a year or two," he said.

Iveson said if the city must spend the money now, there are smaller projects council could approve, but they will have a smaller impact.  

Sohi said the money will be released as the applications come in. Premier Rachel Notley said she expects to start receiving funds in the next few weeks and months.

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