Finance Minister Jim Flaherty promised that Union Station "will, at last, be revitalized," one of several Ontario-specific infrastructure measures in the 2009 budget.

In the infrastructure portion of his speech on Tuesday, Flaherty promised spending to "improve our roads, bridges, harbours, public transits, railways, border crossings" and more.

"These and other infrastructures form the backbone of our future prosperity," he said. 

In northern Ontario, Flaherty said the government would be providing funding for twinning portions of the Trans-Canada highway along Highways 11 and 17.

Some other major projects:

  • rehabilitating cross-border bridges at Sarnia and Fort Erie
  • bridges in Burlington and Kingston
  • bridges connecting the National Capital Region and Quebec
  • railway stations in Hamilton, Windsor and Belleville are to be improved

Flaherty called Union Station a "crucial commuter hub."

A third railway track will be added at key locations in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor to make the express trip shorter by 30 minutes, he said.

The federal government has allocated $11.8 billion in infrastructure spending by the end of fiscal 2010.

Here are some other details about national spending:

  • a $4 billion stimulus fund would be aimed at the repair of existing infrastructure, which will require funds from other levels of governments.
  • $2 billion for fixing university and college campus infrastructure
  • $2 billion for social housing
  • $1 billion would be allocated for "shovel-ready" projects
  • $1 billion for "green" projects
  • $500 million for community recreational facilities
  • $500 million for small towns

Ontario's Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said at first glance, the budget "appears to be" good for the province.

"We think they've come a long way on a whole range of files," he told CTV Newsnet's On The Hill, noting improvements on employment insurance and infrastructure.

But, "this is a fair different response to Ontario's circumstances than we heard even two months ago, so we welcome it," he said, but added the province will be looking at the details in the coming weeks.

Miller 'concerned'

Toronto's Mayor David Miller welcomed the funds aimed at Union Station, but said Tuesday he had some overall "concerns" with the federal government's commitment to infrastructure spending.

Less than two weeks ago, Canada's mayors told the Tories that cities and towns are already set their priorities and are investing in 21st century infrastructure. They need federal money to flow quickly without red tape or the requirement for matching funds in order to spark job growth, he said.

But it sounds like most of the federal money will flow through the Building Canada Fund, "which as you know, almost none of that fund has been used to create infrastructure in this country because of the significant red tape," he said.

Miller said he and other mayors hoped to change the federal government's mind to allow the money to flow more quickly. He used the gas tax fund as an example of how that could be done.

Toronto is focusing on public transit infrastructure, noting city council wants money to get the Eglinton ($1.2 billion), Finch ($349 million) and Sheppard ($360 million) Light Rail Transit lines started, he said.

The city also sought $368 million to replace existing transit vehicles and $29 million to make subway stations more accessible to the disabled.

The budget doesn't have detail on whether funds for those projects will be forthcoming, he said.

Social housing and Union Station funding were the only two clear wins.

The Toronto Board of Trade criticized the lack of transit infrastructure spending.

"Infrastructure investment has long been our membership's number one issue, especially for transit," said Carol Wilding, its CEO.  "These investments are desperately needed if Toronto is expected to compete with its global competitors."

Of the $12 billion, only $2.5 billion is available for new infrastructure across Canada, she said.

NDP Leader and Toronto MP Jack Layton, who said his party won't support the budget, backed the cities in his criticism.

"It's going to require provinces and municipalities to match funding and guess what, they don't have the funds to match it," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press