Ottawa says no formal request made by Saskatchewan over infrastructure dollars

REGINA — The federal government says it has not received a formal request from Saskatchewan's deputy premier about the need to transfer infrastructure dollars to pay for projects in the province's two largest cities.

Gord Wyant signed a letter addressed to Regina-area Liberal MP Ralph Goodale saying the transfer is needed between the pots of money Ottawa has allocated to pay for specific infrastructure projects.

Saskatchewan says Ottawa is being unresponsive, putting three cultural and recreational projects in Regina and Saskatoon in jeopardy.

But Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, press secretary for federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities François-Philippe Champagne, says it has not received a formal request from Wyant to transfer the money.

Vaillancourt says the department is open to reviewing requests, but there is a formal process to follow.

The federal government said last October it inked a 10-year agreement with Saskatchewan on how nearly $900 million in infrastructure dollars would flow.

The money is divvied up into categories for specific projects such as public transit or community, culture and recreation.

The agreement allows Saskatchewan to request the ability to move this money between categories in the third and fifth year.

In an email statement sent to The Canadian Press, Wyant takes issue with the response that the province has not yet made this request.

He says since last fall the Saskatchewan government has repeatedly made it clear to the federal infrastructure minister it prefers to move money out of a pot dedicated to funding public transit projects in order to pay for other infrastructure.

An October 2018 letter addressed to Champagne co-signed by Wyant says it would have been the government's preference to transfer all but $116 million from the category dedicated to funding public transit to green infrastructure.

The federal government says by March 2019 an amendment was made to allow for money to move more freely between certain categories, but not all.

In the letter, the province also says it would get in touch with its community representatives before that three-year window in hope of getting the funds re-directed sooner "to projects more suitable to our provincial needs."

"To suggest that Saskatchewan has 'not requested' this prior to now demonstrates just how deaf the federal government has been to Saskatchewan’s many attempts to work with Ottawa to ensure that this funding is responsive to our province’s infrastructure needs and priorities now and over the next decade," Wyant said in his statement.

It's the second time in recent weeks that the Saskatchewan government has expressed concerns about the federal government's infrastructure funding timelines.

Wyant accused Ottawa of delaying the approval of a list of projects submitted to the federal government earlier this summer.

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