Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first budget saw billion-dollar spending increases spread across a wide spectrum of Canadian society.
Despite all the spending, relatively few dollars were allocated for major infrastructure projects in B.C, at least for now. The province will receive $460 million over three years for transportation, not enough for a quick fix to Metro Vancouver transit woes and end commuter frustration.
But B.C.’s Liberal government said Tuesday’s federal budget signals a good start towards investing in provincial infrastructure projects.
“It’s going to ensure that the current system and some expansion is going to meet the needs in the short term,” Community and Sport Minister Peter Fassbender said.
During last year’s election campaign, the Liberals talked about boosting infrastructure spending — the SeaBus, Broadway corridor and Surrey light rail were all mentioned as ballot bait.
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“We will quadruple federal investment in public transit over the next decade,” Trudeau said during a speech in Vancouver last September.
In Tuesday’s budget, $3.4 billion was allocated to public transit spending across Canada, the majority of which went to Ontario and Quebec.
With this budget comes more promises. The feds are floating the idea of footing 50 per cent of the bill for large infrastructure projects.
Fassbender said he’s pleased Trudeau’s government is willing to pay up to 50 per cent for projects such as Surrey’s light rail and the Broadway SkyTrain extension in Vancouver.
He called the cost-sharing formula a step forward from the one-third split between the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
But Fassbender said the province is not about to move away from its commitment of one-third funding, which means municipalities must contribute 17 per cent to the projects.
While some are encouraged by the promise of additional federal funds, there are no guarantees.
“I think any time you don’t have a final commitment it’s going to make you nervous,” New Westminster Jonathan X. Cote said.
– With files from John Hua and The Canadian Press
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