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Feds will stop investing in new road infrastructure, environment minister says | RCI



Feds will stop investing in new road infrastructure, environment minister says | RCI

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the federal government will stop investing in new road infrastructure — a comment that immediately drew the ire of the Opposition Conservatives and some premiers who said the climate activist turned politician is out of touch.

Guilbeault said Tuesday the government will be there to support provinces paying for maintenance but Ottawa has decided that the existing road infrastructure is perfectly adequate to respond to the needs we have.

There will be no more envelopes from the federal government to enlarge the road network, Guilbeault said, according to quotes published in the Montreal Gazette.

We can very well achieve our goals of economic, social and human development without more enlargement of the road network.

Guilbeault said the federal government is intent on moving people out of their cars and into public transportation, which the government has spent billions to build.

The federal government also wants to encourage active transportation, which means getting people to walk and cycle.

No funding for ‘large projects’

Pressed by reporters to defend his comments Wednesday, Guilbeault said he should have been more specific that the federal government will not be funding large projects.

He cited Quebec City’s long-proposed third link as one such project that will not receive funding from Ottawa.

Conservative MP Mark Strahl, the party’s transport critic, said Guilbeault’s talk about no more new roads is outrageous and an affront to the people who rely on cars to get to and from work.

This isn’t something many Canadians do without. To simply say we’re not going to allow any federal money to go into that is extreme, it’s divisive and it’s right in line with what this government does, Strahl said.

“But we should expect that from a guy who scaled the CN Tower (new window)climbed on top of a premier’s house (new window) and was led away in handcuffs. That’s the kind of extremism that he’s about,” Strahl said, referring to Guilbeault’s past activism that led to arrests for stunts.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, a frequent critic of Guilbeault, pounced on the remarks, saying in a social media post that the Montreal cabinet minister doesn’t understand that many Canadians live in suburban, rural and remote areas where transit isn’t as well-developed.

Most of us can’t just head out the door in the snow and rain and just walk 10 kilometres to work each day, Smith said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, another premier who has had choice words for Guilbeault in the past — he’s called Guilbeault “a real piece of work (new window)and an extremist (new window)— said Wednesday he was gobsmacked” by Guilbeault’s latest policy pronouncement.

A federal minister said they won’t invest in new roads or highways, Ford said in a social media post.

He doesn’t care that you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I do. We’re building roads and highways, with or without a cent from the feds.

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Guilbeault’s comments put into question the future of Ford’s promised Highway 413, a new highway in the northwest part of the Greater Toronto Area that will connect two major arteries in the area and ease travel between booming areas like Vaughan and Brampton.

Ontario has argued that the project should be fast-tracked because the population growth in these Toronto suburbs demands more infrastructure to ease congestion.

Environmentalists and some local groups have vigorously opposed the 60-kilometre highway because it will cut through farmland, waterways and pave over parts of the province’s protected greenbelt.

Lengthy review

In that context, the federal government decided in 2021 that the project should be subjected to Ottawa’s impact assessment, which means it will be subject to a more stringent and lengthy environmental review.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, which carries out these reviews, reports to Guilbeault.

Late last year, Ford said if Brampton Liberal MPs don’t support the project they risk losing their jobs in the next election because voters there want to see highways like this built. 

Just look at what happened when Highway 413 worked out for the Liberal and NDP candidates right here in Brampton — they all got swept because they didn’t agree with 413, he said, referring to his party’s victory in the 2022 provincial election.

John Paul Tasker (new window) · CBC News · 

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