Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the funding for the Trans-Labrador Highway.
In Canada highways fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction which the member knows. I am wondering why the member is part of a party that for 13 years had the opportunity to do whatever it pretty much wanted in Labrador as far as highways were concerned and did absolutely nothing.
Notwithstanding that, we are responsible for national parks highways and a portion of the Alaska Highway which are under federal jurisdiction. Provincial and territorial governments are therefore responsible for deciding on the planning, the construction, the operation and the financing of highways.
We, unlike some governments in the past, do not interfere in provincial jurisdiction. We are there to help Canadians and help provinces fulfill their mandate.
Nevertheless in today's increasingly global environment the Conservative government is going to take action. It recognizes that investments in transportation infrastructure are absolutely crucial to maintaining Canada's competitiveness and most importantly the quality of life of Canadians. That is the most important challenge the Conservative government has and the government is going to fulfill that mandate.
To show what we are doing as a government, in budget 2006 we announced $16.5 billion over the next four years to improve provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. The reason why is because nothing was done by the Liberal government before. It took a Conservative government to make this promise because of 13 years of inaction.
This is an unprecedented amount. It has never happened before and after 13 years of neglect, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are looking forward to the results that we are going to get for them.
As stated in the budget a key objective of the funding will be to cost share with the provinces and territories improvements to the core national highway system. Also, the government is considering how the new funding should be used to address the multi-modal priorities identified in the Council of the Federation's report, “Looking to the Future: A plan for investing in Canada's transportation system”. What can be more important than transportation for our quality of life and for our economy?
The government is also committed to restoring fiscal balance, something that the Liberal Party has never even identified as being an issue.
During the summer the transport infrastructure and communities portfolio held consultations with provinces, territories and other stakeholders under this Conservative minister's direction on the federal role of infrastructure. We want to have predictable, long term, long track funding, so people can count on it, but also we need to ensure that this funding is done, so that people cannot steal that money, that we are accountable to Canadians.
These consultations provided valuable input and we are going to listen to Canadians, and do what they say in relation to that.
The national highway system of which we speak here had a review and recently it was undertaken to see whether that system was serving Canadians properly. As a result we discovered it was not under the Liberal government and we expanded it. It was expanded in 2005 and includes three distinct categories.
The Trans-Labrador Highway has been included in the northern and remote category of the national highway system, so it is included in that system, like Highway 63 north to Fort McMurray. Indeed, that highway must meet applicable program parameters and funding criteria.
The fiscal balance consultations have identified many competing priorities and pressures across all jurisdictions. We, after 13 years of neglect, are going to do something. That is why I am pleased that the Conservative government intends to honour its commitment to contribute $50 million for the surfacing of the Trans-Labrador Highway.
We are awaiting at this stage a business case from the province in order to ensure that the project will provide results for Canadians and accountability for Canadians.