POLITICS

Federal budget infrastructure funding gets mixed reviews from Toronto politicians

03/22/2013 05:50 EDT | Updated 05/22/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he's "cautiously optimistic" about the federal budget while a potential mayoral rival says it shortchanges the city.

Ford said Friday he is pleased the federal Conservatives have announced a new 10-year Building Canada infrastructure fund worth $53.5 billion.

"That will be a huge benefit to Toronto," Ford told reporters.

Ford said he hasn't had time to crunch all the numbers to see exactly how Toronto will be affected but said decisions will need to be made on where to spend the funds.

Transit is obviously a priority, but not the only priority, he said.

"Our road system is old and requires hundreds of millions of dollars to keep it working and safe."

Federal New Democrat MP Oliva Chow said Friday that combatting gridlock by repairing the Gardiner Expressway and making service repairs for the Toronto Transit Commission are top priorities for the city.

But Chow, touted as a possible mayoral candidate in the next Toronto election, said much of the funding in the new infrastructure fund comes from existing programs.

"We have a new plan, but it's the same old money," said Chow.

She also said the new federal funding commitment is up to $1 billion less per year than the current infrastructure program.

Dan Miles, who works for the federal finance minister, accused Chow of "creative math."

But a Conservative cabinet minister in Toronto on Friday to promote the budget could not say exactly how much funding the city would get.

"I can't get involved in the allocation of these billions of dollars," said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, "but it's obvious that Toronto, the largest city in the country, is going to get its fair share. The need for infrastructure investment in this city and in the GTA is clear and pressing."