Bowman, Goodridge slam Guilbeault's comments about supporting large road projects

“Comments like this… don’t instill much confidence that the federal government is interested in playing much of a role in supporting current or future projects,” said Mayor Sandy Bowman.

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Mayor Sandy Bowman says recent comments from Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault leave him with doubts about federal support for current and future transportation projects. 

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The Montreal Gazette reports that on Monday, Guilbeault told a fundraising luncheon in Montreal “our government has made the decision to stop investing at the federal level in new road infrastructure.”

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“There will be no more envelopes from the federal government to enlarge the road network. The analysis we have done is that the network is perfectly adequate to respond to the needs we have,” said Guilbeault, adding the federal government would help municipalities and provinces maintain existing roads and highways.

On Wednesday, Guilbeault told reporters he was not specific with his comments and was talking about certain large projects, such as a proposed tunnel under the St. Lawrence River linking Quebec City to Lévis. The government has enough money “to maintain and enhance our road network across the country,” said Guilbeault.

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However, road and highway projects in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo are often expensive. The municipality and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), for instance, support a permanent road to Fort Chipewyan. Bowman is hopeful the Highway 686 expansion, which links Fort McMurray to the Peace River region, will continue getting support from the Alberta government.

“Unfortunately, comments like this… don’t instill much confidence that the federal government is interested in playing much of a role in supporting current or future projects,” said Bowman in a Wednesday email. “From my perspective and given these comments, there is certainly a lot more that Ottawa can be doing to support the region’s infrastructure.”

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highway 63 syncrude
Vehicles drive south on Highway 63 from Syncrude’s Mildred Lake plant, north of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Tuesday September 27, 2016. Cullen Bird/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network Photo by Cullen Bird /Cullen Bird/Today Staff

Laila Goodridge, Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, called Guilbeault’s comments “an insane policy.” Goodridge also accused Guilbeault of pushing the same environmental beliefs he held before entering elected politics when he was an activist.

Goodridge mentioned several of Guilbeault’s past stunts as examples, including the time in 2000 when Guilbeault and several other Greenpeace activists were arrested for fastening themselves to a coker heading towards a Suncor site north of Fort McMurray.

“This is so out of touch with rural Canada and Canadians in general,” she said in an interview. “I look at some of the roads that are being proposed in our region and this policy effectively says they will not support them. This is out of touch and out of line.”

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Bowman said he did not believe Guilbeault was speaking for the entire federal government, but called his comments “irresponsible, disconnected and out of touch.”

“I would hope the federal government will be helping provinces and municipalities support existing road networks, not to mention Indigenous communities, the latter of which should be a major focus for the federal government,” said Bowman. “There is certainly a lot more that Ottawa can be doing to support the region’s infrastructure.”

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