Ontario announces $1.62B in joint transit funding as MPs complain about delay
Ontario's infrastructure minister suggests MPs 'playing politics' after they complain of delays
The province has opened an application process for municipalities to apply for provincial and federal funding for major local transit projects.
But the timing of the announcement is being questioned by two Liberal MPs who say it's been more than a year since the province signed on to handle the funding application process.
On Tuesday, Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton announced $1.62 billion in joint provincial and federal funding will be made available to municipalities outside of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. It will be the first intake of applications for the program.
3 ways, 10 years
In total, the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) will provide $30 billion over 10 years with funding being split between the province, the federal government and the municipalities.
"Our government is listening and has heard the infrastructure needs of our municipalities," McNaughton said in a release.
"We are committed to cutting red tape for local governments and funding local infrastructure priorities in the province while putting Ontario back on a path to balance so that we can protect our hospitals, schools and other vital public services."
But Kitchener Centre MP Raj Saini says the province and the federal government signed an agreement on March 14, 2018, to provide a joint amount of $180 billion for four areas of spending:
- Rural and northern infrastructure.
- Green initiatives.
- Culture and recreation.
As part of the process, Ontario accepts the applications from the municipalities and nominates them to the federal government for eligible funding.
"The [Ontario] government changes on June the 7th. From June the 7th to this day forward, not one [K-W] project has been submitted for approval by the provincial government," Saini said.
Region wants bus facility
There's a big transit project the Region of Waterloo wants to complete that hinges on the transit funding, Saini said.
Over the next five years, the region wants to significantly increase public transit and to do so, it needs to buy more buses. The region also needs to build a bus storage and maintenance facility and, Saini says, construction on that facility needs to begin in August this year to be ready for August 2021.
"The build season is coming," he said. "If we don't get this project going, it's going to delay our transit expansion plans."
Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield also says he's tried to get the province to open up the application process for funding, but with little luck. He accused the provincial government of not showing up for meetings or being unprepared when they are there.
"It's an election year and I think the federal Conservative party and the provincial Conservative party are doing what they can to be able to say that the Liberal party federally hasn't been able to do anything with infrastructure funding," Longfield said.
McNaughton told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo the rural and northern funding application process was opened up on March 12, 2019 at a provincial announcement in Baden. He said Saini and Longfield are wrong and that there are no issues with funding.
"I'm quite surprised that he would be playing politics on the infrastructure file," McNaughton said.
"Shovels will be in the ground within weeks and construction will unfold right across the province. This is great news for workers and for families living in those municipalities."
McNaughton announced Tuesday in Peterborough the transportation funding application process was opening.
McNaughton denied Longfield's accusation that provincial government officials haven't been prepared for meetings. He said he's "met with more municipal leaders than anyone else" at more than 200 meetings since June, 2018.
He said the comments by Saini and Longfield may be part of a ploy to distract from the current controversy embroiling the federal Liberals with regard to the SNC-Lavalin affair.
"Maybe this is the local MPs trying to change channels from that," McNaughton said.
Saini fired back, saying the province is playing games.
"I don't know Minister McNaughton very well but that to me is a disingenuous statement," Saini told CBC. "SNC has nothing to do with this. This is infrastructure. They're deflecting. They're playing politics with it."