POLITICS

Ottawa to provide up to $32M to twin busy Saskatchewan highway by fall 2018

03/12/2015 02:40 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT
SASKATOON - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says a meeting with the prime minister Thursday covered topics that included the importance of infrastructure investment and the effects of low oil prices.

Stephen Harper was in Saskatoon to announce federal funding of up to $32 million to twin a portion of a busy provincial highway.

"I want to make the quick point that it is also just a small part, not only of the infrastructure development that is going on in this province, but frankly infrastructure development that is going on across the country," Harper said at a news conference.

Wall said adding lanes on a 25-kilometre stretch of Highway 7 from Saskatoon to Delisle will help address safety concerns. The provincial government says traffic on that section has increased by 50 per cent in the last decade.

Construction is to start in the spring and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2018.

The federal government investment is intended to cover half the cost.

Wall said in an interview that one thing he and Harper discussed was a proposal for $1 billion to support port and transportation infrastructure in the western provinces.

In November, the premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia announced that they would ask Ottawa for the money.

Wall said Harper was receptive to the idea, but also said that Ottawa has "many competing proposals."

It's important to improve infrastructure in the Asian-Pacific corridor and boost trade with Asia, the premier said.

"That'll help us become a much more reliable supplier to our customers."

He added that Harper asked about the effects of low oil prices on the economy.

"My message is the same and it bears repeating," he said. "Saskatchewan's economy is certainly going to need to adjust to the new oil price reality. It's not insignificant.

"On the other hand, we have a diversified economy," he said, pointing to a $1.7-billion investment Mosaic announced for its potash mine earlier this week.

Later Thursday, Harper touted his government's record on infrastructure during a moderated question-and-answer session at the annual meeting for the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.

"Others are going to come to you, who never by the way invested much in infrastructure before, and they are going to tell you, 'elect us, and we'll invest in infrastructure,'" he said. "I don't know whether that's true or not, but what I do know is they're not going to tell you how they're going to finance it."

Harper said the average age of core public infrastructure has been falling.

"We have made investments in infrastructure at all levels of government that dwarf the investments that have been made by previous governments," he said.