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'I should have been more specific': Environment minister on investing in road infrastructure remark


Facing pushback from premiers, after stating the federal government will stop investing in new road infrastructure, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault tried to backtrack Wednesday, saying he "should have been more specific."

"Of course we're funding roads, we have programs to fund roads, but we have said, and maybe I should have been more specific in the past, is that we don't have funds for large projects like the Troisième lien," Guilbeault said, referencing the proposed third connection point between Quebec City and Lèvis, Que.

The federal minister faced a series of questions after the Montreal Gazette reported that Guilbeault said in a public transit conference in Montreal on Monday that the federal government had "made the decision to stop investing in new road infrastructure."

The newspaper quoted Guilbeault as stating that the federal government would still be there for cities and provinces "to maintain the existing network," but there would be no more money coming to "enlarge" it, as the analysis concluded that "the network is perfectly adequate to respond to the needs we have."

Facing questions in Ottawa on Wednesday, Guilbeault encouraged reporters to "look back and you will find numerous statements by myself and many other cabinet colleagues on this.

His remarks have also sparked criticism from the Official Opposition and some premiers, who accused Guilbeault of being unsympathetic to Canadians who don't live in large urban centres with functional transit systems.

Conservative MP Mark Strahl slammed the "extreme and divisive" policy by "a guy who's scaled the CN Tower, climbed on top of a premier's house, and was led away in handcuffs," a reference to the minister's past climate change activism.

"We need our roads to get our goods from our farmers to market, we need our roads to get our kids to school. We need our roads to get our workers to work, and this is a government that's already taxed away the ability of people to afford to buy a new car," Strahl told reporters on Parliament Hill.

"This isn't something that many Canadians can do without," he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he was "gobsmacked" by Guilbeault's remarks. 

"A federal minister said they won't invest in new roads or highways," he said on "X." "He doesn't care that you're stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. I do. We're building roads and highways, with or without a cent from the feds." 

Also taking to social media to decry his comments, noted Guilbeault critic Alberta Premier Danielle Smith called on the federal minister to "return to the real word."

"Does this minister understand that most Canadians don't live in downtown Montreal? Most of us can't just head out the door in the snow and rain and just walk 10km to work each day," Smith said.

Picking up on the issue during question period, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused Guilbeault of launching a "war on cars," and called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to condemn the "crazy comments."

In response, the prime minister said the Liberals' approach to highway infrastructure "has not changed" and pointed to the billions invested since 2015 on big projects such as building bridges.




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