Funding the future of light rail and how it would tie into economic development was a hot topic at a federal all-candidates debate in the eastern Ottawa riding of Orleans on Thursday morning.

The first of three questions posed to Conservative candidate Royal Galipeau, Liberal candidate Andrew Leslie, Green candidate Raphaël Morin and NDP candidate Nancy Tremblay by the Orleans Chamber of Commerce was on the idea of extending the city's light rail project to Trim Road.

The second was on economic development tied to its plans to bring light rail to Place d'Orleans.

"There is land that can be developed along those lines. Place d'Orleans already has a lot of businesses so ending there [means] there's no space to bring more buildings," said Dina Epale, the chamber's executive director.

"Up to Trim you have a whole wide range of areas that can be developed, plus it brings the development further into the community."

$160M to build to Trim

The federal government has split the costs of phases 1 and 2 of Ottawa's light rail project with the city and the province, but that doesn't include the approximately $160 million cost of extending phase 2's easternmost point to Trim Road.

When asked, the Green and NDP candidates said they would work to secure funding for the Trim extension immediately.

"It doesn't make sense to go in there [for phase 2] and do the job halfway," said Tremblay.

"We're going to be there with our equipment, if we try to do it later on it's going to cost twice as much or more so it makes sense to do it the first time, correctly."

"Commuting downtown is certainly an important issue for workers in Orleans, transit takes time away from their personal lives," Morin said.

Leslie said he'd work to use the Liberal infrastructure fund to get the extension built, in collaboration with the other levels of government.

"What prime minister Trudeau will bring to the table is $20 billion in hard infrastructure," he said.

"With that $20 billion it's entirely reasonable and highly probable that such projects as extending the light rail to Trim will be approved." 

Galipeau said it's too early to talk about funding commitments for the Trim extension since the provincial government hasn't committed to phase 2 and there hasn't been a formal ask for it.

He added the Liberals and NDP voted against the budget with the "fiscal framework" for phase 2 LRT funding and an ad running on local radio featured Justin Trudeau only promising to fund as far as Place d'Orleans.

"When the time comes for phase 3 I'll make sure that the fiscal framework is there also," Galipeau said.

The city's LRT projects are going in all directions, but I'm from Orleans. I'll make sure Orleans is included."

Some of the other initiatives brought up during the debate were Galipeau's pledge to keep bringing cybersecurity jobs to the riding, Leslie's plan to work on getting a major federal office in Orleans once light rail is ready, Morin's promise to use the Green Party's small business grants to bring more agriculture, vineyards and microbreweries there and Tremblay's idea to bring in a public service "satellite office" where people from several departments could work closer to home.