While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up his western swing in Edmonton Wednesday, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi continued his trip by making a whirlwind visit to Fort McMurray.
The Edmonton-Mill Woods MP met with Liberal supporters on Wednesday night before engaging with council, first nations, and community groups in a series of meetings on Thursday.
Sohi wrapped up his day with a Q&A at the Eagle Ridge Community Centre with members of the YMCA, Waypoints, and Boys & Girls Club. He spoke about the importance of “social infrastructure,” namely affordable housing and community gathering points. He also touted the government’s commitment to change EI rules for struggling regions like the RMWB, and to introduce a new Canada Child Tax Benefit.
However, Sohi was careful not to promise dollars to Fort McMurray specifically.
“We have not determined the allocation for each municipality yet,” he said in a one-on-one interview with Fort McMurray Matters. “We have to wait for the budget to be passed. Once that happens we will start working with the provinces to sign bi-lateral agreements with them.”
Sohi said once those agreements are signed, they will be able to begin informing municipalities what investments they’ll be receiving from the government.
“What I can say is that the federal government will be contributing more than they have ever done in the past,” he said.
Sohi expanded, saying his department is willing to contribute up to 50% of the costs on projects funded by Infrastructure Canada, up from a 33% cap in previous governments.
He added that he had productive conversations with city councillors, who offered their thoughts on what projects were most important in the region. On Wednesday’s Fort McMurray Matters, Councillor Keith McGrath made a case for creating more direct routes to site in order to reduce commuting times for workers.
“That’s a conversation we need to be having,” The Ward 1 Councillor said. “We need to expedite a road across the Athabasca and put an east link up to Kearl Lake so that you can piggyback onto those sites along the way.”
Sohi affirmed that his ministry is committed to “flexible” program delivery that responds to each municipality’s needs.
You can hear the full interview with Sohi on Fort McMurray Matters at noon Friday on Mix 103.7fm radio.