Communities Minister Peter Fassbender speaking Feb. 12 in Surrey.

Bridge request won’t bump transit grants: B.C.

Sohi confirms Ottawa may give more than a third towards infrastructure projects

Communities Minister Peter Fassbender says Metro Vancouver mayors shouldn’t worry that the province’s request for federal money to help build the new Massey Bridge will eat into the grants available for transit expansion.

The province has pitched the Massey Tunnel replacement as a green infrastructure project for the purposes of federal funding and one that will help with goods movement in the region.

Some mayors have expressed trepidation that they may be competing with the province for the $60 billion in new infrastructure grants Ottawa is to begin doling out.

“That is not being put on the table at the expense of the vision for Metro Vancouver,” Fassbender said of the Massey request. “We’re not saying ‘Give us money for this at the expense of that.'”

He said the provincial government has a responsibility to consider the needs of the whole province.

Fassbender appeared in Surrey Friday with federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, who announced a new round of federal gas tax transfers totalling $73 million for 57 projects across B.C.

Water and sewage system upgrades – such as $4.3 million for ultraviolet disinfection of wastewater in Abbotsford – dominated the list of grants.

Separately administered gas tax transfers for Metro Vancouver are destined for TransLink, mainly to replace buses.

Sohi confirmed the federal government is strongly considering a more generous federal contribution on the new infrastructure grants, deviating from the traditional formula of one third each from Ottawa, Victoria and the local government.

He said that could allow municipalities to pay less than one third of capital projects, in recognition of their strained finances and the fact that they end up shouldering the long-term costs of operating and maintaining new infrastructure, usually without much help from senior governments.

“We can’t change the formula for the existing funding under the Building Canada fund,” Sohi said.

“But we’re open to exploring the options of the federal government playing a greater role and providing more funding than the one third that has been traditional in the past.”

Sohi also reiterated the federal government’s intention to support Surrey’s light rail project with the transit portion of new infrastructure funds.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

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