Victoria chapter calls for spending on public transit, not urban highway expansion

2016 December 24, by Chapter Council

MasseyBridge Demo Richmond 002smThe Council of Canadians Victoria chapter says all levels of government should shift money away from road projects that increase carbon pollution and spend those funds instead on public transit.

In a Vancouver Sun opinion piece, Victoria chapter activist Eric Doherty, who is also transportation planning consultant and a founding member of the Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria, writes, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Christy Clark and most of Canada’s premiers recently signed the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. ‘Framework’ is a good title for this agreement — it is barely a start on what is needed. But it contains a policy shift that could dramatically reduce climate pollution from transportation.”

Doherty notes, “Over the past decades the federal government has funded transportation infrastructure with little or no regard for climate pollution. They spent billions of public dollars every year on projects that increase climate pollution, such as urban highway expansion. And since projects are usually cost-shared, one billion of federal money is often matched by two billion from the province and region or municipality. Largely as a result of this perverse spending, between 1990 and 2014 climate pollution from transportation increased 32 per cent.”

He adds, “Trudeau’s first budget allocated new money to a public transit fund, which can reduce CO2, but there was no commitment to shift money away from projects that increase pollution. Now there is a commitment, of sorts, in the fine print of the climate framework. The framework commits the federal and provincial governments to ‘shift from higher- to lower-emitting types of transportation, including through investing in infrastructure’. The examples include shifting from driving to transit and cycling, as well as shifting freight from trucks to rail.”

Doherty concludes, “When governments bury a policy in the fine print, it usually means they have little intention of following through. …[But] everyone who wants better transit has a new tool to help ensure our public funds are not spent to make the climate crisis worse. The first step is to get your municipality and regional district to endorse this new policy of shifting money away from road projects that increase pollution to public transit. Then be prepared to demand that your mayor and councillors actively oppose the next polluting urban-highway-expansion project that the provincial government announces.”

The Delta-Richmond and Vancouver-Burnaby chapters have been vocal opponents of the proposed ten-lane Massey Bridge in Metro Vancouver and have called on the Trudeau government to withhold federal infrastructure funding from the project. Construction on that bridge is scheduled to begin in 2017. For blogs on that campaign, please click here.

The Council of Canadians supports the Leap Manifesto demand for affordable public transit in place of more cars.

re-published from