Transportation ministers meet in Ottawa

By James Peters
January 28, 2016 - 2:59pm Updated: January 28, 2016 - 3:31pm

OTTAWA —BC's Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure is in Ottawa this week, hearing details of the Trudeau government's infrastructure plans.

Todd Stone says his colleagues have met with Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, who told them the feds want to spend 60-billion dollars over and above the existing Building Canada program.

The federal government says it's willing to use infrastructure dollars to help Canada's coastal provinces pay for ferries that are critical for connecting communities.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the government is open to modifying the eligibility criteria for the government's marquee infrastructure fund to pay for ferry-related improvements.

That message was delivered during closed-door discussions Thursday in a downtown Ottawa hotel between Garneau and his provincial counterparts.

The Liberals have promised to spend, on average, $6 billion more per year for each of the next 10 years on infrastructure, with one-third of that slated for public transit. At the same time, they are trying to shovel existing funds out the door to projects approved for cash to help stimulate the economy.

The infrastructure cash could be a boon for provinces like British Columbia, which is looking to build a dozen new ferries — one in each of the next 12 years — and facing a steep bill for the first three that will start to arrive this year.

The three ferries being built in Poland will cost about $252 million, including about $52 million in import tariffs.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone says Liberals showed a clear willingness to expand eligibility criteria, but cautioned "we're not there yet" on an agreement.

The day-long meeting between Garneau and his counterparts ended with the group agreeing to a national strategy to eventually drop to zero the number of fatalities on Canada's roads.

The document, released Thursday afternoon, is the fourth such strategy that ministers have endorsed.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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