Guilbeault receives summons to testify on 'no more new roads' claim

MPs voted unanimously to have the environment minister testify before the Commons transport committee after he proclaimed, 'Our government has made the decision to stop investing in new road infrastructure.'

Guilbeault receives summons to testify on 'no more new roads' claim
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault must explain his 'no more roads' comment to MPs after they voted unanimously for his testimony before the Commons transport committee.

"Our government has made the decision to stop investing in new road infrastructure," Guilbeault told donors at a Montreal fundraiser luncheon February 12. "The network is perfectly adequate to respond to the needs we have," he added.

The minister claims further road expansions would encourage more car use, which means more congestion and air pollution.

Conservative MP Mark Strahl, sponsor of the motion to compel his testimony, called it "a radical policy," reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

"His divisive comments, his extreme position has set off alarm bells in provincial capitals, in cities, in remote communities and Indigenous communities right across the country," said Strahl. "It is a radical policy."

On February 14, Guilbeault attempted to walk back his comments. "We have programs to fund roads," he clarified. "Maybe I should have been more specific."

"What did you mean exactly?" asked a reporter. "That’s not what I said," replied Guilbeault. 

At the luncheon, the minister said: "Our government has made the decision to stop investing in new road infrastructure … there will be no more envelopes from the federal government to enlarge the road network."

"I can read it back to you," said the reporter. "What I have said is the solutions to our transport challenge pass by many different things," replied Guilbeault.

On Wednesday, Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs condemned the controversial comments that have drawn the ire of Canadians from coast to coast. 

"His public comments are shocking to hear as they have massive consequences on infrastructure development for Canadian communities and on the ability of communities to grow and prosper," penned the opposition members in a February 16 letter.

"Canadians deserve to know how this decision will impact their communities and their ability to drive their vehicles and live their lives," it reads.

They followed the letter with an 11-0 vote to summon Guilbeault for questioning within 14 days, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

Bloc Québécois MP Xavier Barsalou-Duval told MPs on the transport committee Wednesday that Guilbeault appears to support a "militant vision" rooted in ideology. "But when you are in government, you’re supposed to be responsible and make decisions for all of our country," he said.

"This is an alarming point of view," added Strahl.

Liberal MP Chris Bittle, parliamentary secretary for infrastructure, attempted to save face by stating "no change" had been tabled on roads. "We are making historic investments across the country," said Bittle.

New Democrat MP Taylor Bachrach did not find the official denials reassuring, reported Blacklock’s Reporter

"The question is could you be any more out of touch? Do you not know people that need to drive to work on our road network? Do you not know people who drive their kids to school? Do you not realize that our supply chains are incredibly reliant on new roads and improved roads?" said Strahl.

"We don’t all live in downtown Montreal," he added. "So, I think there are questions that he needs to answer including how exactly does this work for the majority of Canadians?"

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