We’re beginning to get a sense of how the federal Liberals first budget will impact Metro Vancouver.
“It’s a very positive budget for the West Coast,” says Mayors’ Council chair and Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.
The big item for the region is about $370 million for transit, which Roberson calls a down payment to be used to improve services.
“The good news with that $370 million for metro Vancouver transit is that it’s very flexible, so we are able to invest in buses, SkyTrain upgrades, and also look at the next step of funding the Broadway subway and Surrey light rail projects – getting the design and engineering done.”
But when it comes to putting shovels in the ground on those bigger projects, the really big infrastructure spending will come after 2019, which is also after the next federal election.
The other transit win for the province is a shift in the funding formula for new projects.
On the cost-sharing model, Robertson says the federal government will pick up up to 50% of the bill. That leaves the region with somewhere between 17% and 20% to pay for.
Metro Vancouver Chair optimistic
Metro Vancouver Chair and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore sees reason for optimism in the new budget.
He says it would have been great to get billions of dollars handed over immediately. But there is a lot to feel good about.
“It talked about the mayors ten year vision. It didn’t talk about a rail project or a bridge or a certain bus line. It talks about the overall plan, which is super important to all of us.”
Moore says he has a “roll up your sleeves and get to work” planning session with federal officials coming up on Thursday.
He was speaking on the Lynda Steele show on CKNW.
LISTEN to his full interview here:
Robertson says he’s heartened to see money flowing for seniors and co-ops when it comes to social housing.
But when it comes to the mayor’s big ask – about half a billion dollars to fund new housing on 20 city owned properties, Robertson says it doesn’t look promising.
“We don’t have confirmation in this budget that those projects can get built using some federal dollars. But we’re still looking at that.”
He says despite the let down, he’s happy to see Ottawa putting more money into housing than the previous government.
The federal budget earmarks millions of dollars for search and rescue services, with a healthy dose of that coming to the West Coast.
$23.6-million over five years will go towards re-opening the Kitsilano Coast Guard base.
The budget says the base will be able to respond to environmental emergencies, as well as train people to also respond to spills.
Still with search and rescue services, the budget also restores funding to heavy Urban Search and Rescue teams, including Vancouver’s.
They will get $15.5-million over five years.
Another $60-million over five years will be used to fund a new forensic laboratory at the RCMP’s Green Timbers headquarters in Surrey.
The feds say the laboratory will help with investigations of the most serious and violent crimes.
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade has given the Federal Liberals a B grade for their first budget.
It says despite the large amount of money spent and the nearly $30-billion deficit, the road is paved to help Canada’s uncertain economy in the near future.
But president and CEO Iain Black says it wasn’t all good news for the board of trade.
“What we didn’t see today that we’re hopeful we’ll see in coming months and years is some specific commitments to Pacific Gateway, trade enabling investments in infrastructure.”
Black also says he was disappointed the government doesn’t have a plan yet to get back to a balanced budget.
Students are also giving the budget mixed reviews.
The Canadian Federation of Students in BC are calling it a small step in the right direction, after the government increased grants for low and middle income students.
Ottawa is upping student grants to $3000 for low income families and to $1,200 dollars for middle income earning families.
Secretary-Treasurer of CFS-BC Jenelle Davies says though the increased grants are great, students are still graduating with record debt.
“We were hoping for a bit more in the budget to do more to combat skyrocketing student debt in the country. Other than the increase to grants, there wasn’t much done to help eliminate the debt that students are facing.”
Davies says she would like to see post-secondary education funded similarly to health care across the country.
“What we need from the federal government is I think is a comprehensive national plan about post-secondary. We really need some leadership on making post-secondary a priority and working with the provincial governments to ensure the highest quality and most accessible education is being delivered.”
Ottawa is paying for the new grants by axing the traditional federal education and textbook tax credits.