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Infrastructure No. 1

Accelerating infrastructure projects and getting shovels in the ground are two priorities Toronto Mayor David Miller and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty hope they can act on.

Accelerating infrastructure projects and getting shovels in the ground are two priorities Toronto Mayor David Miller and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty hope they can act on.

That is, if today’s federal budget comes through with the required federal funding both leaders seek.

Infrastructure projects — roads, sewers, bridges, transit and other plans — need to get moving now, local leaders say. Politicians have complained that Ottawa has made repeated promises of cash from a $33-billion federal infrastructure fund, but the money remains in limbo, stalling many projects.

“We need action today. We don’t need red tape. We don’t need funds created that are never spent, like the Building Canada Fund,” Miller said recently, referring to Ottawa’s infrastructure scheme. “That won’t work. It won’t have an immediate stimulus.”

Miller cited the example of the Spadina subway extension to York University, which was delayed 21/2 years waiting for federal funds — long after McGuinty announced the project.

Another major issue is employment. Barely 30 per cent of the jobless in Ontario now receive employment insurance benefits, for example. With the unemployment rate expected to soar this year, Ontario has made its point to Ottawa that it is imperative that EI is made more accessible.

 
 
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