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Federal, provincial governments won’t commit to funding protection of Port Lands against flooding

The city is putting up $5 million for a risk assessment on flooding, to bring the other governments to the table on funding $800 million.
July 14, 2015
By Jennifer Pagliaro

The provincial and federal governments remain non-committal about whether to fund their share of at least $270 million each to redevelop the waterfront.

At a press conference on Polson Pier Tuesday afternoon, neither provincial Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid nor federal Minister of Finance Joe Oliver would be pinned down on whether their governments would contribute to the almost $1-billion project to protect part of the Port Lands against flooding in order to unlock hundreds of acres of land for lucrative development.

They were both present at a press conference on Polson Pier Tuesday afternoon where it was announced that the city alone is funding $5 million for a risk assessment study, due back next year, to address environmental concerns such as flooding, should a major storm occur.

“The federal government’s involvement in the next phase of waterfront development will be determined following completion of this study,” Oliver said. “But I can say that in principle, our government sees the enormous economic and social potential of making this area secure from flooding.”

Protecting the area against flooding and rerouting the mouth of the Don River as planned has the potential to unlock some 600 acres of previously undevelopable land on the Keating Channel. After a design completion and public consultation, current plans for the area include an “urban island” that incorporates parks and wetlands.

Oliver said the project has the potential to generate $3.6 billion in economic benefits and $346 million in tax revenues.

Duguid said the study is part of due diligence and a natural part of the process.

“That has to be done, I think, before our respective level of governments can go through our cabinet processes to get a project of this magnitude approved,” he said. “In terms of support for the project, we’re very supportive.”

Mayor John Tory said the city is happy to finance the early studies, what he said is already budgeted for, in hopes that funding from the other governments could be secured and work could begin as early as 2017.

“Certainly I’m going to make sure I encourage my colleagues today ... to sign on the dotted line to say, we’re going to go to the next phase as partners,” Tory said. “If this is what it takes to get them to sign on beyond being there in principle then I’m all for it.”

The future plans are crucial for Tory’s own initiatives, including a stop for his heavy rail plan, SmartTrack, which he has plotted at the former Unilever site. Part of Tory’s plans to fund that new transit line include leveraging money from new development to fund the city’s share of the costs - part of which his campaign earlier said would hinge on the redevelopment proposed at that site by developers First Gulf.