January 19, 2016 7:40 pm
Updated: January 20, 2016 7:54 pm

Minister ‘pleased’ about $1B infrastructure boost for Alberta, Saskatchewan

WATCH ABOVE: The federal government is set to spend billions on infrastructure, but can municipal and provincial governments afford to pick up their portions of the tab? Vinesh Pratap reports.

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CALGARY – Alberta Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Brian Mason said Tuesday the province is in the process of identifying projects for a $1-billion funding boost from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

“We are pleased that the federal government is looking to quickly allocate $1 billion for infrastructure projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Investment in major infrastructure projects will help create good paying jobs and stimulate economic growth,” Mason said in a statement to Global News.

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The Alberta NDP said it’s investing $34 billion over five years, and “making use of capacity available in the construction industry.”

READ MORE: Tracking the layoffs in Alberta’s oilpatch

“The federal plan builds on our strategy, and experts agree that investing in infrastructure at this time is the right way to go,” Mason said.

Stephanie Rubec, a spokeswoman for the Department of Finance in Ottawa, said Edmonton MP and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi is leading the work in close collaboration with municipal, provincial, and federal partners.

Rubec said the federal government will announce its plans to implement infrastructure commitments in the coming weeks.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for the minister of infrastructure said: “We are working with all provinces, including Alberta and Saskatchewan, to move on existing infrastructure spending as quickly as possible.”

Watch below: Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks to the situation in Alberta and an infrastructure plan, as well as how to create jobs. (Jan. 15)

A request for comment from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s office was not immediately answered, but he has previously emphasized the need to capitalize on low interest rates and declining construction costs by building more.

“What we need to do is ride the cycle, take advantage of the few good things that happen at the bottom of the cycle, in short — invest in infrastructure while construction is cheap and interest rates are low, put people back to work as best we can and reap the benefits of the bad part,” Nenshi said in November.

READ MORE: Nenshi emphasizes Calgary infrastructure amid energy job losses

Linda Duncan, NDP Transport Critic, is asking for clarification about what priorities are being applied in decisions about federal infrastructure spending in Alberta.

“Valid concerns are being raised with the implications of this fast tracking,” Duncan said.

“Higher priority projects, such as LRT or social housing, may not qualify as shovel-ready. While other worthy, but lower priority projects could potentially be fast tracked, a number of questions remain unanswered. Will timelines for completion be cast in stone?

“It’s clear Alberta’s economy needs a boost at this critical time, but will this affect funding for important projects down the road? Must two thirds of these projects costs be borne by the province and city?”

“All of these factors will play a role in the long term capabilities to deliver on Alberta’s and Edmonton’s infrastructure needs,” Duncan said. “Wise investment in infrastructure remains critical to our economy.”

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