Touting the Liberal’s maiden budget, Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi met with Central Alberta elected officials in Red Deer on Tuesday.
Sohi rehashed the 2016 federal budget and explained the focus on growth, job creation and investing in seniors, families with children, Indigenous communities and middle-class Canadians.
“We understand that in the past the federal government has not done a good job at communicating with mid-sized cities as well as rural communities,” said Sohi. “I was surprised to learn I was the first minister to pay a visit to City Hall for a long, long time. To us, that is not how we want to do business. We want to do business by being inclusive. We want to do business by listening to all sorts of communities and municipalities.”
Sohi said the government values local input, which will help design the delivery of the programs to meet the diverse needs of communities so they are designed in a way that is nimble enough and flexible enough for local communities to make their own priorities.
One key investments in the federal budget is the allocation of $120 billion over 10 years, of which $60 billion is new money, for infrastructure. It could mean more money for public transit, social infrastructure including social and affordable housing, recreational and cultural facilities and early learning and senior facilities.
Another $20 billion has been dedicated to green infrastructure such as water, wastewater and flood mitigation projects and new technologies and encouraging low-carbon economy.
“We believe the infrastructure has been neglected for a long time,” said Sohi. “We also need to build new infrastructure to recognize the growth of our communities. In our first phase we will focus on repairing and fixing up the existing infrastructure and moderation or optimizing infrastructure by using new technologies.”
He said this includes investing in growth infrastructure by investing in new housing and transit systems or recreation.
“We believe infrastructure plays a critical role in building strong, sustainable communities as well as our economic growth,” said Sohi. “It enables our communities to prosper and it also enables further growth in communities.”
“Alberta will get its fair share out of those three funding envelopes,” said Sohi. “We have committed to invest $10 billion immediately in the next two years. Of the $60 billion, on top of the money that is available to communities under the existing plans. In Alberta’s case there’s about $700 million that is available under existing plans. We have committed to fast tracking that money to deal with the sluggish growth that communities in Alberta have faced.”
Sohi said his goal is to ensure that the new funding is invested during this construction season and the next construction season after the bilateral agreement is signed with the province. Announcements will be made after the government finishes reviewing the submitted projects.
Sohi also talked about the tax break for nine million Canadians, who will pay less in taxes and the Canada child care benefit, which will help nine out of 10 families with children. He said it will come to $2,300 more per family on average.