Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is ready to give money to Ontario municipalities, but the provincial government is holding up the process.
“We have a large amount of money ready to be invested in tangible infrastructure projects like public transit, and the provincial government under Doug Ford does not want to partner with us to make those investments,” Trudeau said Tuesday.
He was in Kitchener to announce federal funding for a new tech innovation corridor for companies in Waterloo region, Toronto and Ottawa.
Trudeau was asked how the federal government could help improve transit options for tech workers who commute from Toronto to Waterloo region. He said his government is ready to help, but the Ontario government is stalling.
“Under the previous Ontario government, the money was flowing well,” Trudeau said of infrastructure funding.
“Unfortunately, the current [Progressive] Conservative government in Ontario has not approved a single infrastructure project with the federal government over the past year.”
In March 2018, the previous Liberal government in Ontario and the federal government signed an agreement to provide a joint amount of $180 billion for four areas of spending:
- Rural and northern infrastructure.
- Green initiatives.
- Culture and recreation.
As part of the process, Ontario accepts the applications from the municipalities and nominates them to the federal government for eligible funding.
So far, Ontario has opened the rural and northern funding application process, which was done on March 12, as well as the transportation funding process, which was done on March 26.
The other two funding areas are expected to be opened later this year.
‘Highlighting this behind closed doors’
Trudeau says the federal government has had private conversations with the provincial government about opening the process so municipalities can start applying for the funding as part of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).
He says there are concerns municipalities will miss this construction season.
“We’ve been patient with the Doug Ford government. We’ve been highlighting this behind closed doors and privately to them that they really need to flow this money,” Trudeau said. “I am now saying it very publicly that the provincial government in Ontario is letting down Ontarians.”
He added, “The kinds of politics they seem to be playing of not wanting to make an announcement with a federal Liberal government is not worthy of a commitment to support the people of Ontario.”
An Ontario transportation ministry spokesperson said the province is committed to delivering a transportation plan for southwestern Ontario by this fall.
“We will continue working to improve transit for communities across Ontario,” the emailed statement said.
In an emailed statement, Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton said the province inherited a deficit from the “federal Liberals’ cousins” and so it was “prudent” to review all spending commitments. He noted this is the first year of a 10-year infrastructure plan.
“Our government has enjoyed a positive and productive relationship with the federal government,” McNaughton said. “This is a desperate attempt to change the channel. The federal Liberals will do anything to distract people’s attention away from their scandal-plagued government.”
A spokesperson for the premier said Ford would echo those comments.
“As the premier has repeatedly said, he will work with any and all levels of government on shared priorities like infrastructure,” the statement said.