Ottawa River sewage money keeps city on edge of its seat

Cities like Ottawa were left waiting until the end of March for news on federal money for municipal projects, such as preventing sewage from flowing into the Ottawa River.

2014 federal budget says nothing of Building Canada fund for municipal projects

The CBC's Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco outlines what the budget did outline for the City of Ottawa. 2:30

Ottawa’s mayor still counts on $65 million from the federal government to prevent sewage from flowing into the Ottawa River, which was not explicitly part of Tuesday's federal budget.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he’s confident the federal government will come through with the money for the second phase of the action plan to clean up the river, which runs between Ontario and Quebec in the Ottawa area and the valley.

The cities of Ottawa and Gatineau have each dumped sewage into the Ottawa River, but the City of Ottawa's clean-up has been an issue for several years.

In Tuesday's budget announcement, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty outlined some specific transportation infrastructure projects, including more money for the Windsor-Detroit International crossing and to rehabilitate Montreal's bridges, plus support for Atlantic ferries and to improve regional ports.

The budget also includes plans to provide Parks Canada $391.5 million over five years to make improvements to highways, bridges and dams in national parks and historic canals.

But municipal leaders like Watson had been eager for details of the $14-billion, 10-year Building Canada Fund so they can plan for the upcoming construction season and factor any funding into their own infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel then announced fund details would be revealed on Thursday.

Watson said his staff would wait with baited breath for the federal government to clarify the application process for the $14 billion.

“We’re disappointed the (Ottawa River) plan was not mentioned in the budget,” Watson said, “[But] when that application process opens, Ottawa will be first in line with a strong case for funding.”

Baird's office says river's a priority

The office for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who is the Member of Parliament responsible for the National Capital Region, told Watson the river is a priority.

The office of MP John Baird tells Jim Watson the river clean-up continues to be at the top of his list of priorities.
Baird is also the MP for the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean.

Some environmental advocates in Ottawa are balking at Baird’s office, claiming it’s the same old song and dance.

Graham Saul, executive director for Ecology Ottawa, told CBC News the government has been claiming the river is priority for a few years now, but has not put the money on the table.

At the end of it all, Watson’s goal is to tap into the federal government’s infrastructure fund so the Ottawa River is cleaned up in time for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in 2017.

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