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Delta MP Qualtrough talks tunnel replacement

Qualtrough tells chamber that infrastructure projects are important for economic recovery but they have to be the right ones
Delta MP Carla Qualtrough participating at Delta Chamber Zoom meeting
Delta MP Carla Qualtrough participated in a federal budget feedback session with Delta Chamber of Commerce members via Zoom on Wednesday. She said the key for the upcoming budget will be balancing the pandemic response with broader public investments.

It’s a holding pattern for now.

That’s how Delta MP Carla Qualtrough described funding for the George Massey Tunnel replacement project during a Delta Chamber of Commerce virtual federal budget consultation session last Wednesday.

The session was one of several feedback sessions in Delta on the budget, aimed at gathering questions, concerns and comments on what should be the federal government’s priorities as it develops its next budget for this spring.

Chamber executive director Garry Shearer was the first to pose a question, asking what the federal government had in mind when it comes to infrastructure projects, particularly shovel-ready projects.

Qualtrough quickly focused on the much talked about planned replacement for the aging tunnel, describing it as a project that has spanned her political career, and which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the last election campaign assured would receive federal dollars.

“We have not yet, as a federal government, received a request from the province to help fund a tunnel replacement. They are at the point now where they have done the analysis, they’ve got a couple of different business case options that the province is considering and my understanding is, very soon, it will go through their own internal cabinet and treasury board processes and come out with a request from the federal government,” Qualtrough explained.

Qualtrough noted she’s been through two elections where it has been stated the federal government would support the project, once a request for funding is submitted, and they’re still waiting.

“What I can tell you is that I have confirmed very recently with Infrastructure (Canada), with the deputy prime minister and finance, with the prime minister’s office, that the prime minister remains true to his commitment the last election. When an opportunity comes our way to help build and support this project, we will be there,” she added.

Qualtrough said it’s uncertain if a request for funding will be submitted in time for the next federal budget because it’s “going to be a multi-billion dollar build and I can’t slip it into the finance minister’s basket of stuff he could possibly fund at the last minute.”

She also noted the project is at least two or three years away from beginning regardless, due to required environmental assessments, which leaves enough time for the government to find the funding needed.

“I’m kind of in a holding pattern as the rest of my federal team until the Province of B.C. asks for support formerly from us, but I think it’s coming,” she said.

The B.C. government early last year unveiled two possible new crossing options, one being an eight-lane tunnel while another is a bridge with the same number of lanes.

A business case on the options was completed later in the year and is now in the hands of the transportation ministry.

The next step is for government to review the submission, consult with partners and stakeholders and make a final decision regarding the crossing, according to the ministry.

Once a thorough review of the business case has been completed, government will decide on an option. The business case will only be made public following that decision.