Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in London for the second time in six months on Nov. 24 where he announced $5.8 billion in new infrastructure funding for across the country — including the Forest City.
Harper, speaking at the Collider Centre, which is part of the Western University Advanced Manufacturing Park (2544 Advanced Ave.), said the funds will go towards modernizing and repairing various infrastructure assets that will provide employment opportunities across the country.
Of particular interest locally, an undetermined amount of funding will be spent in London
Harper unveiled that London’s National Research Council (NRC) facility will be expanded, as will a sister site in Montreal. A new NRC facility will be built in Winnipeg.
This funding would likely be drawn from the $380 million Harper announced for major repairs and upgrading of federal laboratories and research facilities.
While the spending is earmarked over three years, there was no details around how much will be spent on the London facility or how many jobs the expansion is expected to create.
In addition to the NRC expansion plan, Harper announced $2.8 billion will be spent to support infrastructure improvements to heritage, tourism, waterway and highway assets located within national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas.
Other spending targets included: $500 million for repair and construction of on-reserve schools; approximately $400 million to maintain, upgrade and construct federally-owned buildings; and $191 million to undertake renewal and repairs of heritage and museum sites.
Mayor-elect Matt Brown was among those in attendance for the announcement. And like most in the audience, he was surprised — happily — by the spending plans that Harper unveiled.
“I am looking forward to learning more of the details. Obviously, an investment of this nature is just fantastic news for our community, is fantastic news for our region,” Brown said. “When we look forward, so much of where we need to focus is on innovation, on doing things better, on doing things differently. Funding like this will allow us to do exactly that.”
Paul Paolatto, executive director Western Research Parks, praised NRC for being a “long-term partner” with Western University. What is “really encouraging,” Paolatto said, is the NRC expansion will ensure jobs will not only remain in London, but that there will likely be an expansion as well.
Paolatto said Harper’s team kept the announcement, “very confidential,” but they were expecting some “encouraging” news.
“We didn’t expect this much good news, but we are really excited about the outcome. This is a great time for them to evolve,” Paolatto said. “I think the NRC’s investment in London is testimony to the investment the City of London made, the university and Fanshawe made, in the development of this park.”