OTTAWA, Ont. - As Truck News went to press, Finance Minister Paul Martin was preparing to bring down his first budget in almost two years.According to an announcement made at the Ontario Trucking Asso...
OTTAWA, Ont. – As Truck News went to press, Finance Minister Paul Martin was preparing to bring down his first budget in almost two years.
According to an announcement made at the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention by Transport Minister David Collenette, Martin will focus on beefing up Canadian security following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The bulk of any new federal spending will likely come in security-related measures that could be worth as much as $3 billion over five years.
That could include about $1 billion for the military plus more money for police and tighter airport security.
Collenette promises there will be funding for infrastructure contained in the budget.
“Most pressing is the Ambassador Bridge access, and second most pressing is the need for a highway bypassing downtown Montreal,” says the minister.
“The Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program (SHIP), announced 18 months ago in the budget, is one such priority. SHIP commits $600 million to projects to enhance the national highway system. It’s a drop in the bucket but it’s a start back to federal re-engagement in highway construction.”
To be eligible for funding under the highway construction component, a project must be a major capital improvement to an east-west or a north-south trade route that’s part of Canada’s national highway system.
“One key element within the system integration component is our Border Crossing Transportation Initiative,” he adds.
“The $65 million allocated to this initiative will focus on trade efficiency while promoting safety and security at our border crossings.”
But Collenette isn’t prepared to stop at $65 million to fix Windsor. He’s setting his sights much higher.
“The third priority for me is the twinning of the Trans-Canada from coast to coast,” he boldly states. “The biggest chunk is through northern Ontario. This could take a lot of money, but I think that this is a national interest.”
Collenette has reportedly been told by several truckers and fleets that if there were four lanes from Ottawa, right across Hwy. 17, right across northern Ontario and Manitoba, that many trucks from the East would not use the crowded Ontario border crossing. Instead they say they would run more miles in Canada.
“As you know many Canadian trucking companies delivering goods to Western Canada go through the U.S. because the road linkages are better,” he explains. “That means traffic is travelling along an already congested route south of Toronto, and it means that the money being spent by the drivers at stops for fuel is bought in the U.S.”
But the provinces have a constitutional responsibility for highways.
“I want more money to become available to match provincial funds, I’m advocating that,” says Collenette and I think we can get more than the $600 million that was announced 18 months ago.”
“As an MP from the Toronto area whose constituency is cut in two by the 401, we cannot afford to continue to allow a highway like the 401 to be so jammed up. It’s causing delays for the trucking industry and untold delays for commuters.”
The minister didn’t pull any punches in outlining his spending priorities.
“We’re going to spend a hell of lot of money on security issues but we can’t lose sight of our basic infrastructure needs,” concludes Collenette.
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