Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s comments on infrastructure funding have drawn heavy criticism for the construction sector.

Last week at a conference in Montreal, Guilbeault said the federal government would stop investing in new road infrastructure. However he then clarified his comments the next day, stressing that he meant to say Ottawa will not be funding “large” road projects.

“Of course we’re funding roads. We have programs to fund roads,” he told reporters, adding that the federal government can be counted on to support provinces paying for maintenance.

However, he noted that Ottawa has decided that existing road infrastructure “is perfectly adequate to respond to the needs we have.”

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. (Government of Canada)

In short order, numerous construction industry associations condemned the Environment Minister’s comments.

report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) estimates that it will require $107,000 in public investments per new housing unit. This amounts to a total of $620 billion in public funding needed – an additional $375 billion beyond the current planned budget.

“These new communities need new roads. People need to be connected to their jobs, their schools, and their hospitals,” said Mary Van Buren, President of the Canadian Construction Association. “A growing population has growing demands. We not only need the road networks to support their movement; we also need to shore up our trade infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges and highways.”

The CCA said the federal government needs to partner with industry and work with municipal and provincial governments to build a strong foundation for a stronger Canada.

“While the Minister’s previous actions – including an attempt to encroach on provincial jurisdiction over infrastructure development recently deemed unconstitutional – demonstrate a bias against development, it is shocking to see the Minister make these comments on behalf of the government, suggesting a naive understanding of Canada’s infrastructure needs at a time of record immigration and a push towards removing barriers to trade and economic growth,” said Walid Abou-Hamde, CEO of the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA).

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“ORBA supports development across the entire transportation infrastructure asset class, including rail and public transit; therefore, we call on Minister Guilbeault to stop playing politics and join us and provincial governments across Canada to get shovels in the ground on much needed projects in Ontario and across the country.”

Added Rob Pierce, chair of the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA): “While the aggregate industry is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050,” says “There is a consensus that climate mitigation strategies must be pragmatic and grounded in economic reality. It is important that potential solutions don’t disregard the complex interplay between infrastructure development, economic growth, and environmental sustainability.”

Featured image: (CCA)

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