Gas tax funding now permanent, Finance Minister Joe Oliver announces
Fund could pay for public transit, highways, local airports and sports infrastructure
Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced the federal government is making the federal gas tax fund a permanent fixture for supporting infrastructure projects in Ontario municipalities.
Oliver said Friday morning in Toronto this means $3.87 billion will flow directly to municipalities in Ontario over the next five years. The finance minister called it steady, predictable funding.
Oliver gave examples of what the funding could pay for, listing public transit, highways, local airports, short-line rail, culture, tourism and sport recreational infrastructure.
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The deal is part of the federal Conservative's Building Canada Plan, which transfers $53 billion to Canadian local governments over 10 years.
Mayor Rob Ford was on hand and gave a few remarks. He called the move "absolutely fantastic."
"The new permanent gas tax fund is another example, friends, of this ongoing partnership with the federal government," he said.
Ford also touted his work on getting funding for the Scarborough subway extension.
A focus on Ford
Despite the significance of the infrastructure funding, much of the attention was on politics. The provincial government was absent from the announcement, and it was a rare moment when a federal Conservative met with the embattled Toronto mayor.
When asked about how he felt appearing with Ford, Oliver said he has a "business-like" relationship with Ford but has a "different opinion" on political and social issues.
"We will work with every elected official in this country," said Oliver.
The politicians posed for a photo in front of a TTC streetcar after the announcement. Ford, an avowed opponent of streetcars who says he wants to phase them out, did not join the photo.
Ford previously called a gas tax "the worst tax possible" because it would negatively affect traffic and the flow of goods and services.
Ford did not take questions and left immediately after the announcement.
Maria Augimeri, councillor for York Centre, said the city has Jack Layton to thank for the gas tax, not the Conservatives. She called the late NDP chief a "guardian angel" looking over Toronto.
Shirtless protesters, who have followed the mayor to other events ever since he had a confrontation with a shirtless jogger on Canada Day, were in front the TTC building with signs during Ford's time in the announcement.
The announcement took place at the Hillcrest Complex of the Toronto Transit Commission, on Bathurst Street near Dupont Avenue.
Russ Powers, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, was also on hand for the announcement.