In his first trip to Greater Sudbury as prime minister, Justin Trudeau announced funding for the Maley Drive extension, meaning the project the city has tried to finance for three decades will become a reality.
“I am pleased to announce that the Government of Canada will invest $26.7 million in the Sudbury Maley Drive extension project,” Trudeau told a crowded atrium at Tom Davies Square on Thursday. “My government is proud to invest in Sudbury, and the people who call it home.”
Flanked by city council, three federal MPs and Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault, Trudeau reminded the crowd his government has pledged $120 billion for infrastructure over the next 10 years.
He said his government is backing Maley because that's what municipal leaders have picked as their priority.
“This important initiative will reduce traffic congestion, improve commuter safety and get people home on time,” Trudeau said. “And take ore trucks off Lasalle.”
Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre said Trudeau has likely already visited the city more often than any other federal leader, but this visit was special.
“This is truly an historic day for Sudbury,” Lefebvre said.
Mayor Brian Bigger and Trudeau shared a light-hearted moment when the prime minister lowered the mayor's microphone as he took the podium
"I'm much shorter than you," Bigger quipped.
He thanked Trudeau for the funding, saying it will help economic growth as well as providing 780 jobs during construction.
"This project is critical to the economy of Greater Sudbury," Bigger said. "(So) we're all very thrilled and honoured to host you here at Tom Davies Square."
The mayor said city council is determined to make more investments in other projects.
"We need to invest in our community to grow,” he said. “As a council, we're looking at other projects that will do just that, as well. So you'll be hearing from us in the near future on a number of other items.
"This is just the beginning."
Thibeault, who recently had major knee surgery, took to the stage in crutches.
"This is what happens when you mess with security," he said, prompting Trudeau to reply, "Not my security. My guys are nice. Sunny ways, my friends."
Thibeault said between the provincial and federal governments, infrastructure spending will create 110,000 jobs a year in Ontario in the next decade.
"And as a lifelong resident of Sudbury, I know how important the Maley Drive extension is to our city," he said. "We've heard about this project for the last 30 years, and now finally, it's becoming a reality. I really can't wait to see the shovels in the ground on Maley Drive."
In response to a question from the media, Trudeau said more funding could flow to the city for other projects.
"I had an excellent conversation with the council today on issues from wastewater to roads to seniors housing and we're certainly going to continue to be a strong and active partner in the coming months and years to the community of Sudbury," he said.
"It's not up to us to pick and choose what projects communities like Sudbury want and need. It's up to us to work in partnership with the province, with the municipality to fund the projects that you've prioritized."
Trudeau hinted that support in some form could be announced soon related to the Ring of Fire.
"We know that the Ring of Fire means good jobs, means continuing development of the North in ways that hopefully will build the kind of sustained partnerships with indigenous communities that have been too long absent from the economic growth landscape."
He also responded to a question about the Panama Papers controversy, which has snared politicians from across the globe in a major tax avoidance scandal.
"No I do not,” Trudeau said, when asked if he had any investments linked to the scandal. “I have been entirely and completely transparent about my and my family's finances.
"Obviously the Panama Papers are highlighting some very real concerns that people around the world have about the fact extremely wealthy people have been very effective in avoiding paying their fair share of taxes. That's why, in this budget ... we allocated an extra $440 million to the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure they are empowered to go after tax avoidance and tax evasion.”
In a release after the news conference, the city said the total budgeted cost of Phase 1 of Maley is $80.1 million. The province announced its $26.7 million share in 2014. Based on the 2016 budget, the City has reserved $15.4 million for the project, to ensure its shovel-ready status, with money designated in future budget years to fund the remainder of the project.
The Maley Drive Extension will be built in two phases. Phase 1 will connect LaSalle Boulevard West with Falconbridge Highway, while Phase 2 will extend the Maley Drive Extension to Elm Street West. Once construction has started, Phase 1 of the project is expected to take three years.
An overview of the Maley Drive Extension project, including a profile and construction maps is available at www.greatersudbury.ca/maleydrive