WINNIPEG –Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought words of reassurance to Winnipeg for municipal leaders from across the country.
Speaking at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Trudeau said decisions about how federal infrastructure dollars should be spent will be left to municipal governments… for the most part.
While he said municipalities would be able to make decisions about specific projects, his government would set some broad parameters for how those decisions should be made.
That includes prioritizing social infrastructure, transit projects and green investments.
Municipal leaders have been asking for clarity around those parameters and how much flexibility they will have to start making their decisions.
Trudeau met with Mayor Brian Bowman for about half an hour earlier in the morning.
Speaking briefly during a pre-meeting photo op, Trudeau said being in Winnipeg twice in one week has been a good opportunity to reconnect with the city.
Bowman says the two talked about reconciliation, infrastructure and innovation, including Winnipeg’s Innovation Alley in the Exchange.
The Prime Minister will meet with Premier Brian Pallister Friday afternoon.
In the recent budget, the Trudeau Government announced $60 billion for infrastructure. This included $3 billion for public transit projects that are completed by early 2018.
Following a meeting Thursday afternoon Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced Ottawa is willing to be flexible.
“This is about partnership, this is about ensuring that we are here to support local municipalities,” said Sohi.
“Your federal government is not here to tell municipalities what to do and how to build infrastructure.”
The program consist of two phases. First, $12 billion for short term projects. Second, $48 billion for long term projects, however Sohi did say planning for these projects could be funded under the first phase which would be a big help for the City’s plans to expand bus rapid transit.
“The City of Winnipeg will get their share and that share will come very soon,” said Sohi.
“Our goal is to conclude the second phase within this year, so any planning done within this year will carry over to the second phase and we’re committed to working with Mayor (Brian) Bowman.”
Bowman told reporters he’s pleased with the cooperation between municipalities and Ottawa, but it’s too early to say how the City will take advantage of the funding.
“We have a lot of work to do and figuring out how we can build our plans and access these funds in a way that supports that, as well other infrastructure investments in Winnipeg is something we are actively working at,” Bowman said.
The annual meeting brings together mayors and councillors from across the country.