Premier Ford ‘gobsmacked’ by federal government plan

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Federal government will stop investing in ‘large’ road projects, environment minister says

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Two days after Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said the federal government will stop investing in new road infrastructure, he attempted to clarify his comments, telling reporters Wednesday that he meant to say Ottawa will no longer fund “large” road projects.

“Of course we’re funding roads, 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 Troisième lien,” Guilbeault said, referencing the proposed third connection point between Quebec City and Lèvis, Que.

When speaking at a public transit conference in Montreal on Monday Guilbeault said that the federal government had “made the decision to stop investing in new road infrastructure,” the Montreal Gazette reported.

The newspaper quoted Guilbeault stating the federal government would “still be there for cities and provinces to maintain the existing network,” but there would be no more money to expand the roads system.

“There will be no more envelopes from the federal government to enlarge the road network,” Guilbeault said, according to quotes published in the Montreal Gazette. “We can very well achieve our goals of economic, social and human development without more enlargement of the road network.”

Instead, the federal government will focus on moving people out of their cars and into public transportation, which the government has spent billions to build, he said, adding he wants to encourage “active transit,” and encourage people to walk and cycle.

In a statement on X, Premier Doug Ford said he was “gobsmacked”.

“A federal minister said they won’t invest in new roads or highways,” Ford said. “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.”

When questioned in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will continue to invest in “infrastructure.”

He refused to condemn Guilbeault’s comments and instead said the minister “clarified” his remarks earlier and the government’s “approach to infrastructure continues to be one of investing in the future for Canadians.”

Trudeau defended the government’s record on infrastructure, saying Ottawa has helped fund the Champlain bridge in Montreal, the planned Gordie Howe bridge in Windsor and the twinning of the Trans-Canada highway in Newfoundland, among other projects.

Conservative MP Mark Strahl, the party’s transport critic, said Guilbeault’s talk about no more new funding for “large” roads is “outrageous” and an affront to the people who rely on cars to get to and from work.

“This isn’t something many Canadians do without. To simply say we’re not going to allow any federal money to go into that is extreme, it’s divisive and it’s right in line with what this government does,” Strahl said.

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