In a press release on February 10, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $14.9 billion in new funding for public transit, framed as “part of our plan to create one million jobs, fight climate change, and rebuild a more sustainable and resilient economy.” A Backgrounder states that $5.9 billion will be distributed on a project-by-project basis starting in 2021 to encourage active transportation projects (e.g. bike paths, walkways), rural transit, and zero-emissions transit vehicles and infrastructure. The bulk of funding – $9 Billion – is dedicated to creating a permanent public transit fund of $3 billion per year, but not until 2026. The Backgrounder states: “Over the coming months, Infrastructure Canada will work with provinces, territories, municipalities, local governments, Indigenous communities, transit agencies, policy experts and other stakeholders to develop programming for the $3 billion in permanent public transit funding in a manner that offers the greatest benefits to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Consultations on the design of the new permanent transit funding will begin in the near future to address how all orders of government can work in partnership to get the most out of investments in public transit.”
This doesn’t answer the demands of the #Keep Transit Moving coalition, led by the Council of Canadians and the David Suzuki Foundation. The Council of Canadians’ response was “Trudeau’s Transit Announcement throws Just Recovery under the Bus”. It states: “Transit infrastructure spending is important and necessary, but the urgent need is for sustained operating funding. …The federal government’s focus on infrastructure at the expense of operational funding is a classic case of trying to appease social movements without making the needed changes.” The COC also repeats its warnings against the use of public-private investment to fund transit, if money is directed through the Canada Infrastructure Bank . The Amalgamated Transit Union, facing historic ridership loss because of the pandemic, also expresses disappointment in their press release, which states: “What’s needed now is $400 million per month into emergency operational funding to cover losses at the farebox.” The ATU acknowledges that the government has provided emergency operating funds through the Safe Restart Agreement , but those will soon expire, and other transit-related funding has been for capital projects and to support the EV bus manufacturers.
The government’s transit funding was more favourably received by others: “Big City Mayors Cheer as Trudeau Offers Permanent Federal Transit Funding” (The Energy Mix, Feb.12); “Support for public transit is key to decarbonizing transportation” (Pembina Institute, Feb. 11); and “Expanding and electrifying public transit exemplifies the recovery Canada needs” (Clean Energy Canada, Feb. 11).