According to the Globe and Mail, another twist has developed in the political soap opera centred around federal funding of Toronto’s streetcars.
Ottawa is standing firm in its refusal to give Toronto $400-million in stimulus money for the largest light-rail contract in North American history, raising questions about the fate of a project with huge economic spin-offs for Canada’s beleaguered industrial sector.
Instead, Infrastructure Minister John Baird offered the city a way it could indirectly tap the stimulus fund: Move up construction projects that can be completed in two years and use the savings to pay the federal share of the $1.2-billion streetcar contract.
Mr. Baird’s conciliatory gesture comes as Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller head to Thunder Bay Friday to pledge their financial support for a deal with Bombardier Inc. of Montreal that is set to expire in just over a week.
Amid strenuous efforts in recent days by the city and the province to get Ottawa on board, Mr. Baird continued to insist that the city’s pitch to replace 204 aging streetcars does not qualify for his government’s $4-billion federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund.
â€œIt’s a fantastic project,â€ he said of the streetcar initiative. â€œIt’s just not eligible for this program. And [that’s] not just a technicality.â€
He said the federal stimulus funds are intended for projects that create local jobs over the next two years. By contrast, jobs for the streetcar project would be mostly in a Bombardier assembly plant in Thunder Bay, not in Toronto.
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