Federal Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel was in town briefly Thursday to take the long view on Ottawa’s budget priorities.
Lebel held a roundtable in St. John’s to talk about the federal government’s new infrastructure plan, which is being drawn up now and will be rolled out starting in 2014.
That’s something St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe was eager to talk about; he’s got a laundry list of more than $300 million in infrastructure priorities.
“We are at a tipping point,” O’Keefe said. “What we’re looking from really from both the federal and provincial governments is sustainable funding.”
Lebel spoke briefly to the media saying he had a good meeting with representative from the province, municipalities, the Nunatsiavut government and businesses.
He said the plan will address roads, water, sewer, green infrastructure and transit projects across the country.
“We will deliver something that makes sense for all the country for the future of the infrastructure of this country,” Lebel said.
Provincial Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson said the province is pushing for more flexibility and co-operation when it comes to federal infrastructure money.
“One example when we look at the roads here in Newfoundland and Labrador, most of the money now, criteria-wise, would only be spent on the Trans-Canada (Highway),” he said.
“We were looking for flexibility where we could move down to our trunk roads and our secondary roads as well as some of our smaller local roads,” said Hedderson.
He said the talk wasn’t so much about specific projects, though, and more about the shape of the infrastructure plan when it eventually comes to fruition two years from now.
Regional Minister Peter Penashue said with the economic uncertainty facing the world, it’s important for the federal government to have its plans in place.
“We have to start planning. We have to start thinking about the impacts of Greece and it’s very important that we have the country ready as well,” he said. “For that reason, I think it’s very important to begin this discussion and to start thinking about the post-2014 planning.”
Penashue made a point of saying the consultations — which will happen across Canada — are starting in Newfoundland.
“This is the start of the discussions, consultations across the country, and so I appreciate the fact that we’re the first ones on the list,” he said.
“I think that also gives a good opportunity to set the tone for the discussions. We had a very good representation from around the province including the Inuit representation from the north.”