Infrastructure spending to be distributed based on fairness, says minister

VANCOUVER – The federal infrastructure minister is pledging to disburse a “fair share” of new funding to every region of the country, even while some provincial economies flag and others project growth.

Amarjeet Sohi says his goal is to equitably divide billions in additional cash that the recently elected Liberal government has promised to infuse into the national economy.

The government has pledged $60 billion over the next decade on stimulus.

Sohi outlined the Liberals’ broad plan to promote growth to the Vancouver Board of Trade on Thursday and later told reporters his department hasn’t determined how the money will be allocated.

The minister wouldn’t say whether the government is planning to help the hardest hit regions, like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

He also wouldn’t say whether stronger economies in British Columbia and Ontario will get less.

“I can’t tell you at this time how much are they going to receive,” he said, adding that no province has been informed of its take of the new money ahead of the spring budget.

He would only say the plan will be designed “based on need” and the money would be spent strategically to make the economy more productive.

“It will vary from one project to another, but in the end we want to make sure every region gets their fair share.”

Alberta’s petroleum industry is losing billions each year and its government is preparing to rack up a $6.1-billion deficit. The fiscal pain has prompted Premier Rachel Notley’s government to earmark $34 billion over the next five years for everything from roads to hospitals.

Meanwhile, B.C. is forecast to lead Canada’s growth rate this year at 3.1 per cent and is on track to table its fourth consecutive budget surplus next week.

The Liberals’ 10-year plan will divide spending between public transit, green projects and social infrastructure like affordable housing. The first two years will focus on refurbishing deteriorating infrastructure, but Sohi hinted some new infrastructure will get built too.

He refused to give specifics, but said some small funding announcements would be made on Friday.