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Federal infrastructure minister open to funds for ten-lane Massey Bridge

The proposed ten-lane Massey Bridge would replace the existing four-lane Massey Tunnel.

The Trudeau government seems open to using federal infrastructure funds for projects that increase carbon emissions.

On March 21, the day before the federal budget was tabled, the Globe and Mail reported, “[Peter Fassbender, a senior British Columbia cabinet minister] was one of the provincial ministers who went to Ottawa in December to present the province’s priorities for the federal budget. At that time, he said the $3.5-billion bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel was at the top of B.C.’s list. On Tuesday, with no indication in the budget that Ottawa is ready to contribute to the bridge project, Mr. Fassbender suggested it could still happen at a later date. ‘I don’t know that they overlooked it – it isn’t detailed in the budget’, he said Tuesday. ‘We are going to continue to press for that.'”

For context, the provincial government is proposing the $3.5 billion ten-lane Massey Bridge to replace the existing four-lane George Massey Tunnel. That tunnel is located about 20 kilometres south of Vancouver city centre and joins the municipalities of Richmond and Delta. The Council of Canadians has joined with allies on numerous occasions to highlight concerns about this ten-lane bridge proposal including the additional greenhouse gas emissions that come with adding more space for cars and the government’s lack of commitment to public transit alternatives.

In March, we called on the federal government launch an environmental review of it and to withhold infrastructure funding from it. In January, our Delta-Richmond and Vancouver-Burnaby chapters protested against the bridge outside an open house in Richmond hosted by the BC government. And three years ago, Delta-Richmond chapter activist Cathy Wilander stated, “We need to make transit an accessible and convenient mode of commuting instead of spending our public money replacing the tunnel. We have to get people out of their cars. This is particularly relevant to our community as global warming from carbon emissions is here and our community, a flood plain, is particularity vulnerable to rising sea levels.”

So we were pleased to see that the federal budget didn’t include funds for the Massey Bridge.

But this morning, the Globe and Mail reports, “[Federal infrastructure minister] Amarjeet Sohi faced questions about federal financing for the project – which was absent from this week’s budget – during a question-and-answer session held by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. …’It is not the federal government’s role to determine what the local priorities are’, said Mr. Sohi, as he was questioned by chamber members, the bridge-supporting mayor of Delta and reporters. …Mr. Sohi said there was money left in the Building Canada fund of the former government, which could be used to help pay for the bridge.”

This is disappointing.

As Vancouver-based transportation consultant Eric Doherty, who is also a member of our Vancouver-Burnaby chapter, has written, “Given Trudeau’s statements on the seriousness of the climate crisis, you might expect that the multi-billion dollar infrastructure program he ran on in the election would already be targeted to reduce carbon pollution. You would be wrong. …Every dollar of public money spent on roadway expansion is a dollar spent to sabotage the Paris Climate agreement, and to push humanity towards truly catastrophic global warming. Let’s help Justin succeed in this tough work, by demanding that not one dollar of public infrastructure money go to increase carbon pollution.”

The Council of Canadians supports the Leap Manifesto demand for affordable public transit in place of more cars.