Will Ottawa stop funding roads? Minister pressed after contentious comments

Click to play video: 'Federal environment minister ignites uproar over road project funding'
Federal environment minister ignites uproar over road project funding
WATCH: Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is trying to clarify comments he made about the federal government's investment plans for new road infrastructure, which have ignited a firestorm of criticism from the opposition and some premiers. David Akin explains – Feb 14, 2024

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault insists the federal government is funding new road projects, despite comments earlier this week suggesting otherwise which have infuriated Conservative premiers.

On Monday, the environment minister told a crowd in Montreal “our government has made the decision to stop investing in new road infrastructure,” according to quotes published in the Montreal Gazette.

“There will be no more envelopes from the federal government to enlarge the road network. The analysis we have done is that the network is perfectly adequate to respond to the needs we have.”

When pressed by reporters two days later, Guilbeault said he “should have been more specific.”

“Of course we’re funding roads,” he said Wednesday. “We have programs to fund roads, but we have said — and maybe I should have been more specific in the past — is that we don’t have funds for large projects like the trosième lien.”

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Click to play video: 'Environment minister clarifies feds will continue to fund roads'
Environment minister clarifies feds will continue to fund roads

The trosième lien, or third link, refers to a highway tunnel connecting Quebec City to Lévis.

But the Conservative transport critic Mark Strahl called Guilbeault’s comments “outrageous” and said they point to a climate activist turned downtown Montreal MP who is disconnected from suburban and rural Canadians.

“We need our roads to get our goods from our farmers to market. We need our roads to get our kids to school,” said Strahl. “It’s an extreme position from an extreme environment minister.”

“But we should expect that from a guy who scaled the CN Tower, climbed on top of a premier’s house and was led away in handcuffs” added Strahl.

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While Ontario’s Conservative Premier Doug Ford said he was “gobsmacked” by Guilbeault’s remarks.

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“A federal minister said they won’t invest in new roads or highways. He doesn’t care that you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I do. We’re building roads and highways, with or without a cent from the feds,” Ford posted on X, formerly Twitter Tuesday.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith echoed a similar sentiment on social media.

“Does this minister understand that most Canadians don’t live in downtown Montreal? Most of us can’t just head out the door in the snow and rain and just walk 10km to work each day,” wrote Smith on X.

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