Light Rail Gets an Ally – We Welcome New Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi

For the first time since I have been advocating for better transit, now over thirty years, we now have a minister of the crown who not only understands modern light rail, he is an advocate of modern LRT!

Let us hope new infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi is open to new ideas including the Leewood/RftV TramTrain!

New infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi a ai???light rail advocateai??i?? with incredible backstory

By | Nov 4, 2015
Amarjeet Sohi is shown in Edmonton in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Amarjeet Sohi is shown in Edmonton in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Amarjeet Sohi ai??i?? a three-term Edmonton city councillor and light rail advocate who was once held as a political prisoner in India for over two years in the 1980s ai??i?? was sworn in as infrastructure minister Wednesday, which would seem to make him the point man on billions in promised infrastructure spending and the creation of a new Canada Infrastructure Bank.

But with new Liberal infrastructure money divided into three categories (public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure), and the fate of the Conservative-created crown corporation PPP Canada (Public-Private Partnership) ai??i?? which reports to the finance minister ai??i?? unclear, thereai??i??s still a lot to be fleshed out.

Sohi, whose incredible story of surviving torture, solitary confinement, and sleep deprivation at the hands of the Bihar state authorities in India was the subject of a February profile in the Edmonton Journal, only narrowly defeated Conservative MP and junior minister Tim Uppal.

He comes to federal politics from Edmonton municipal politics, where he ai???represented the city on the Canadian Urban Transit Association, and has been a strong advocate for light rail transitai???, according to a biography provided by the Liberal Party.

ai???What I have learned over the past eight years being a city councillor is that municipalities donai??i??t have the ability to plan for long term. When they donai??i??t have the long-term funding commitments from their partners, itai??i??s always difficult to plan. Also, it becomes costly ai??i?? even though you may have a long-term vision and plan in place, you canai??i??t execute it unless you have a strong commitment from your partners,ai??? Sohi told the Journal the day after the election.

ai???One thing Iai??i??m really about is the $2 billion each year for next 10 years commitment that we have made (to mass transit). That will definitely help us in our city, help us expand the LRT to all parts of the city. And we are committed to being equal

He also stressed the importance of giving the municipalities the freedom to build infrastructure as they see fit, without dictating the terms.

ai???The Liberals are very clear on how we support municipalities. They are very clear that we are there as equal partners, but we are not there to dictate to municipalities how to build a system and what kind of procurement process they have in place. We leave that to the municipalities and itai??i??s up to every municipality to decide which way they want to build so the system, whether itai??i??s P3 or not P3,ai??? he said.

Itai??i??s hard to say what, if anything, that means for PPP Canada, which the Harper government created as a crown corporation in 2009.

The Liberal infrastructure plan doesnai??i??t mention PPP Canada, says the new infrastructure bank will help municipalities finance the broad range of infrastructure projects their communities, and that the Liberal government will work with the ai???private sector and pools of capital that choose for themselves to invest in Canadians infrastructure projectsai???.

Presumably Catherine McKenna, the new environment and climate change minister, will have to work closely with Sohi on implementing the planai??i??s green infrastructure component, which commits to direct funding for things such as local water and wastewater facilities, and climate resilient infrastructure.

As will Jean-Yves Duclos, the new Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, since the ai???social infrastructureai??? component includes promises investment in affordable housing and seniors facilities, early learning and child care, and cultural or recreational

In 2016-17, the Liberals have committed to $5.1 billion in additional spending for public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure.

Thatai??i??s on top of the $5 billion in infrastructure spending under the New Building Canada Fund, which is for what more often comes to mind when the word infrastructure is used ai??i?? bridges, roads, and ports, for example.

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