B.C. not committing to its fair share for transit funding, says non-profit

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, the provincial government is falling short on its commitments to fund public transit

Christy Clark’s government isn’t living up to the transit funding commitments made by former premier Gordon Campbell in 2008, according to a report from the David Suzuki Foundation. On the weekend, the provincial government announced it would fund one-third of future transit projects in the Lower Mainland but only for the first three years of a 10-year plan.

“If the provincial government used the same approach and funding framework it developed for the 2008 Provincial Transit Plan, billions in new investment into B.C.’s transit and transportation system would be secured,” said Ian Bruce, program officer at the David Suzuki Foundation in a statement.

The latest round of negotiations over transit funding, in which the Lower Mainland’s cities are pitted against the provincial government, comes as the federal government has agreed to fund an unprecedented 50 per cent of future transit projects. It’s a “crucial opportunity,” according to the foundation, which put forth its own proposed funding plan. Under that plan, the provincial government would provide one-third of the funds for new projects over the course of 10 years and the municipalities of the Lower Mainland 10 per cent, with an extra seven per cent coming from the private sector.

According to the DSF, the funds committed in a late May announcement by Peter Fassbender, the minister responsible for TransLink, are insufficient. Nor did his ministry give cities powers to raise funds from the private sector, a model which the DSF suggests could help close the funding gap. That announcement “risks perpetuating a long-term cycle of underfunding,” said Bruce.

The foundation’s argument is based on an analysis of budget documents going back to 2008, when the provincial government made a $4.75-billion commitment, or 42 per cent, of an $11.1-billion transit plan. Eight years later, the DSF found that only $1.1 billion had been allocated.

According to David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson, it’s a missed opportunity. “While other transportation projects like roads and bridges are going ahead without delay, transit infrastructure has been put on an uneven playing field as the province continues to provide insufficient financial support,” said Robinson.

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