Government asks provinces to suggest stimulus projects

Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:45pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's federal government, under pressure to aid a slowing economy, has asked the provinces to submit infrastructure projects that can get under way quickly, officials said on Monday.

Federal Transportation and Infrastructure Minister John Baird met with representatives of Canada's western provinces to discuss ideas that could be ready to get financing from Ottawa when the budget is unveiled on January 27.

"I don't think infrastructure is going to be the grand solution to every problem, but I think it can help put a major shot in the arm of the Canadian economy," Baird told reporters following the meeting in Vancouver.

The officials could not say how much money the federal and provincial governments might spend on the projects that range from mass transit to communications and environmental systems.

Opposition parties have threatened to topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government over its failure to act quickly with plans to aid the slowing Canadian economy.

Harper agreed to move up the next budget to January from its normal introduction date in late February or early March, and Baird said the government had already promised to double spending on infrastructure next year.

Among the projects "almost certain" to receive federal aid was the more than C$1 billion ($813 million) Evergreen Line expansion of Vancouver's mass transit rail system, said British Columbia Transport Minister Kevin Falcon.

"It's just a matter of dotting the i's and crossing the t's," Falcon said.

(Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing by Eric Walsh)