Edmonton City Council hoping for LRT funding as feds prepare to table budget

EDMONTON – As Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty prepares to present his budget to Parliament, Edmonton City Council is anxiously waiting to see if infrastructure funding will come through for the city’s LRT.

“I am very optimistic that this budget will have money for the LRT,” said Ward 12 City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi.

While City Council has made the Valley Line — which would see the LRT extended from downtown to Mill Woods — its number one infrastructure priority, the project remains $515 million short.

READ MORE: 2020 or 2021 “reasonable” timeline for southeast LRT completion: Mayor

The City has committed $800 million to the Valley Line and $250 million has been secured in P3 funding. And the City is hopeful Tuesday’s federal budget will see $150 million allocated to Edmonton from the Building Canada Fund.

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“All we’re looking for is the flexibility that money allocated to our city, we’ll be able to use that for the construction of the LRT,” Sohi explained, adding he wants to be reassured that all of the funding ends up in Edmonton.

“We want to make sure that federal government insist on the provinces that money allocated for municipalities must go to the municipalities. Not be used by the province for their own priorities.”

While Flaherty hasn’t released many details on what the budget will entail, he has promised a balanced budget by next year.

“In 2009 we decided to run a large deficit because of the great recession,” Flaherty told Global’s Tom Clark on Sunday. “But we always planned to come back over the course of the medium term. And we are coming back year after year after year.

“We will balance next year, in 2015. This year, we’re approaching balance.”

It’s not just the federal budget Edmonton has to worry about, the Alberta Government has a role to play in funding, as well. With the provincial budget set to come down the first week of March, city councillors say they’re cautiously optimistic.

“I believe the other two levels (of government) heard loud and clear that this is a priority for Edmonton City Council, Edmontonians, the entire region. And I think we’ll see that, hopefully, come through in the upcoming budgets,” Ward 1 City Councillor Andrew Knack said.

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“I think tomorrow if we see Building Canada come in then we’re going to see the province follow suit, which means we can start building LRT right away,” Knack boldly stated.

And the timing is critical, Sohi adds.

“We definitely don’t want to lose another construction season. Losing one construction season for the LRT, you’re looking at adding another $65 million to the cost of the project. So you’re kind of losing the value for the money,” he explained.

“We don’t have a plan B and we can’t have a plan B because we don’t have other means of getting the LRT going.”

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.

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