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Transport ministers told feds willing to fund ferries with infrastructure cash

Last Updated Jan 29, 2016 at 8:15 am PDT

OTTAWA – The federal government says it’s willing to use infrastructure dollars to help Canada’s coastal provinces pay for ferries that are critical for connecting communities.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the government is open to modifying the eligibility criteria for the government’s marquee infrastructure fund to pay for ferry-related improvements.

That message was delivered during closed-door discussions Thursday in a downtown Ottawa hotel between Garneau and his provincial counterparts.

The Liberals have promised to spend, on average, $6 billion more per year for each of the next 10 years on infrastructure, with one-third of that slated for public transit. At the same time, they are trying to shovel existing funds out the door to projects approved for cash to help stimulate the economy.

The infrastructure cash could be a boon for provinces like British Columbia, which is looking to build a dozen new ferries — one in each of the next 12 years — and facing a steep bill for the first three that will start to arrive this year.

The three ferries being built in Poland will cost about $252 million, including about $52 million in import tariffs.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone says Liberals showed a clear willingness to expand eligibility criteria, but cautioned “we’re not there yet” on an agreement.

The day-long meeting between Garneau and his counterparts ended with the group agreeing to a national strategy to eventually drop to zero the number of fatalities on Canada’s roads.

The document, released Thursday afternoon, is the fourth such strategy that ministers have endorsed.