Friday, April 15, 2011

Canada needs national transit strategy: FCM

Last week, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities issued their 2011 federal election platform. It outlined a series of measures to increase funding available to cities and communities, including a need for consistent and significant investment in transportation and public transit. The FCM levelled a criticism at the reliance of municipalities on property taxes (in their words, "an out-of-date and regressive funding tool that hits middle- and low-income Canadians hardest"), and suggested reform to the funding tools available to them. It also recommended that more of the gax taxes the federal government collects should be invested into public transit, and, more ambitiously, that the federal government should "legislate clear targets for increasing access to public transit". The latter suggestion would likely come through a national transit strategy, which the FCM said is a necessary measure for Canada to take. From their section on public transit:

Canada needs a national strategy to cut commute times, improve public transit, and bridge gaps in the national transportation system. All parties must commit to dedicating funding for public transit in the long-term fiscal framework; legislate clear targets for increasing access to public transit; and implement supportive tax policies, including a tax-deductible, employer-provided public transit pass; and work with provinces, territories, and municipalities to prioritize and address strategic gaps in Canada’s air, rail, road, and marine networks.

As a first step, all parties should commit to invest more of the federal taxes Canadians already pay at the gas pump in shorter commutes and better public transit. In addition to its existing Gas Tax Fund, the federal government must dedicate a share of its current gas tax revenues to replace $400 million in recently expired federal transit funding.

The election campaign kicked off with a fair amount of discussion around municipal issues and public transit, but most party leaders have been derailed by political attacks on their counterparts. We'd all be better off if they stuck to the issues at hand, and make tangible promises for more funding for public transit.

1 comment:

Brock Carlton said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks so much for taking the time to call attention to FCM’s platform launch -- in particular our call for consistent and significant investment in transportation and public transit. As you know, because you’ve helped spread the word about the #CutMyCommute campaign, we are also very concerned that Canada’s only national source of dedicated transit funding – the Public Transit Capital Trust – expired in 2010. We want that $400 million per year replaced.

You are right, it can be difficult sometimes -- especially in an election -- to keep the federal party leaders focused on the concerns of cities and communities, but we think that’s changing – thanks to people like you who are blogging and tweeting about these issues. The more we blog, tweet, and discuss the very real role the Federal government plays in the challenges that face cities and communities, the more focus the Federal party leaders will give to them.

Thanks for your work,

Brock Carlton

CEO, Federation of Canadian Municipalities