The federal budget pledges 750 million dollars in investments for transit projects over two years, and then a billion dollars the year after beginning in 2017.
Iain Black with the Vancouver Board of Trade and the ‘Yes’ side coalition says this means the federal government will be at the table with its share to fund the mayors’ plan.
“It absolutely does. When you combine that with Minister [Todd] Stone’s remarks of a couple of weeks ago. It puts the ball firmly in the court of the residents of the lower mainland to determine the future that they would want with public transportation and this is there opportunity to actually move forward.”
If a “Yes’ vote wins the Transit and Transportation funding plebiscite, each level of government is expected to chip in for a third of the cost of the projects in the mayors’ plan.
Among those proposed projects is skytrain down Broadway and light rail in Surrey and both the City of Langley and Langley Township.
However Canada’s Finance minister won’t commit to being at the table for his government’s share of the bill for the mayors’ transit and transportation plan.
Joe Oliver was asked if transit investment dollars tabled in the federal budget meant the federal government would cover its third of the bill.
“I cannot commit to any specific projects today. We are not doing that anywhere in the country but projects of merit we will be supporting.”
That said Oliver added “I am sure there will be projects in British Columbia that have merit.”
Oliver says his government wants to tackle the issue of congestion.
“We want to address what is the most single important issue that people keep raising in the cities and in the suburbs and that is traffic gridlock. I have always lived in big cities and I share the frustration.”
At least one Metro Vancouver mayor is not phased by the federal finance minister hedging his bets.
Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore says the federal investment is good news for the projects listed in the mayor’s plan, should a ‘Yes’ vote win.
“They are giving more money to transit throughout the country, which is good for us in this region. Our plan calls for one-third funding federal, one-third provincial, and one-third regional, and so with the billion dollars a year in year three there will be the availability of funds.”
Federal transit funds won’t be tabled until 2017 and Moore says that is fine.
“We actually didn’t need the federal portion of the capital funding for years four five and six and then beyond that. We need when we put a shovel in the ground and when we are starting to contract for the services. We know that the first few years it is planning. It is detailed design. It is procurement. The timing actually does not affect the detailed implementation of the mayors plan.”
Of course all of this hinges on the ‘Yes’ side winning the transit and transportation funding plebiscite.