OTTAWA – Sixty organizations, including TAAG, have signed a letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland urging her to extend emergency operational funding in the federal government’s upcoming budget.
The organizations include large unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers, environmental groups like the David Suzuki Foundation and national anti-poverty and tenant organizations like ACORN Canada and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. The wide array of groups shows the importance public transit plays across all sectors and its essential role in people’s lives.
The government is set to release its first budget in two years on April 19th and it will likely include considerable spending on a post-COVID recovery. The majority of Canadians believe transit should be a key part of that recovery. A 2020 Probe Research poll found an overwhelming 78% of Canadians enthusiastically support emergency transit funding.
“We have been encouraged to see government announcements in support of transit expansion projects,” said John Di Nino, National President of the Amalgamated Transit Union. “However, as budget time approaches, we need to emphasize that expansion projects alone will not ensure the future of safe, affordable and reliable public transit in a post-pandemic world. Our transit systems also need Ottawa’s support with day-to-day operations, like maintaining and disinfecting buses . .”
The government announced earlier this year a transit investment of $14.9 billion over eight years, including a new permanent transit fund. This money is very welcome but is dedicated to capital projects, leaving a significant shortfall in transit systems’ day-to-day operations. The 60 civil society organizations warn this will lead to massive service reductions and job losses that will have significant negative impacts on the economy. Supporting and expanding public transit service is also a necessary part of our response to the climate crisis.
“If public transit does not receive financial support for transit operations, we will all be affected by interruptions in essential services, increases in traffic congestion and traffic-related air pollution,” said Shelagh Pizey-Allen of TTCriders, a transit rider organization in Toronto. “Paratransit service for seniors and people with disabilities will also be affected if federal funding is not extended, as well as the functioning of the health care system.”
The letter to the Finance Minister and the full list of signatories can be read here.