Naheed Nenshi wants federal funds to stimulate Calgary

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the government could help the economic situation in his city by funding transit and housing projects, even if it means going into a deficit.

Ottawa should improve infrastructure program, city's mayor tells Evan Solomon

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the federal government should look back to 2008 and 2009, when stimulus funding helped the country weather an international economic recession. (CBC)

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the federal government could help his city's economic situation by funding transit and housing projects, even if it means going into a deficit.

In an interview on CBC Radio's The House, Nenshi told host Evan Solomon that his city should be "OK" financially in 2015 despite a rare provincial deficit brought on by low oil prices.

However, he said the federal government's new $14 billion Building Canada Fund, designed to fund "projects of national, regional and local significance that promote economic growth, job creation and productivity," isn't living up to its potential as a source of economic stimulus.

"Certainly throughout this country we have a very, very large infrastructure deficit, well into the nine figures, on things like public transit, water and wastewater, transportation and particularly in housing. We've got to fix these things," he said.

'An election-winner'

"We know congestion is a top issue throughout this country, that is absolutely an election-winner, that people across every political spectrum understand that investment in public transit is an investment in reducing people's commutes and everyone wants that​… the challenge is that the provincial and federal governments don't have much money right now so they've got to make a couple of big decisions. With the federal government I'm not confident they'll make the right one."

Nenshi said the government should think back to 2008 and 2009 when several infrastructure projects were funded, while "money is cheap and costs are low." But he said the fund spends less than $1 billion a year and two of Calgary's three applications have been rejected.

An update to Calgary city council earlier this week revealed the city could face around $20 million in lost revenue because of the economic downturn.

Listen to The House on CBC Radio and online at 9 a.m. Saturday (9:30 NT) to hear more about what Nenshi is looking for in this federal election year.