Dear Mr. Andrews:
The Prime Minister's Office has forwarded to the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, a copy of your correspondence of August 16, 2006, regarding the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH). Minister Cannon has asked me to reply on his behalf.
I should note that highways in Canada, including the TLH and the National Highway System (NHS), fall within provincial/territorial jurisdiction. Provincial/territorial governments are therefore responsible for the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and financing of highways within their jurisdiction. The only exceptions are highways through national parks and a section of the Alaska Highway, which are managed by Parks Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada, respectively. This being the case, I have also forwarded a copy of your correspondence to the office of the Honourable John Hickey, Minister of Transportation and Works for Newfoundland and Labrador, for consideration.
In this increasingly global environment, the federal government recognizes that investments in transportation infrastructure are critical to maintaining Canada's economic productivity and promoting the quality of life and safety of Canadians.
However, provincial/territorial governments must prioritize their projects and submit them to the federal government for funding consideration under existing programs, such as the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF), the Border Infrastructure Fund and the Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program (SHIP). Funding requests must comply with all of the requirements and terms and conditions of the fund in question.
I should note that all SHIP funds for Newfoundland and Labrador are already committed and departmental officials are carefully considering transportation and other infrastructure projects under the remaining funds for the CSIF. That said, I can assure you that the federal government will honour its commitment to cost-share $50 million over five years for the surfacing of the TLH between Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
In Budget 2006, the federal government committed $16.5 billion over the next four years to improve provincial/territorial and municipal infrastructure. This amount includes:
* $2 billion to renew the CSIF;
* $2.2 billion to renew the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund; and
* $2.4 billion over the next five years for a new Highways and Border Infrastructure Fund. As part of the Government of Canada's commitment to restore the fiscal balance, officials from the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Transportation and Works took part in recent consultations held by Transport Canada and Infrastructure Canada officials with respect to the role of the federal government in long-term infrastructure funding and ensuring accountability to Canadians. The consultations also provided valuable input for the policy and program parameters of the funds announced in Budget 2006, including investment priorities. Provincial officials have identified the TLH as one of the Province's key priorities.
I should note, however, that neither Transport Canada nor Infrastructure Canada is in a position to enter into any bilateral funding agreements under any of the infrastructure funds before the terms and conditions of these funds are approved by Cabinet and the Treasury Board. The portfolio expects to have these approvals by the end of the year. That being said, to assist us in conducting the requisite due diligence, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will need to submit, as soon as possible, a complete business case for the TLH, demonstrating the importance, technical merits, sustainability and overall benefits. This business case should be the same as those required under existing federal funding programs.
I trust that the foregoing has clarified the department's position with respect to this matter. Again, thank you for writing.
Special Assistant - Atlantic
c.c. Office of the Honourable John Hickey, M.H.A.