A few months ago I wrote a column about the $2-billion the provincial government committed to transit projects in Alberta. In that column, I lamented how B.C. was committing $14 billion to transit, while Toronto was gearing up for a $50-billion investment in its transit system.
By comparison, the $2-billion commitment by Alberta really didn’t amount to much.
Now comes the bad news.
If you thought public transit here was getting a raw deal then, get ready to see the province really screw over transit! That’s right — in lieu of our current economic slowdown, it’s cut its commitment and is now only promising $195 million for its Green Trip program.
Finance Minister Iris Evans, defending spending cuts across the board, is quoted as saying “just as you do in a family, you see that your revenues aren’t going to be there, then you reduce your spending, and you try to look at other ways to make the dollar stretch.”
It’s ironic, given that by spending more on transit and related infrastructure, the government stands to help the economy more than by cutting funding. By committing more to transit projects the government could potentially create thousands of jobs.
The NDP opposition has clearly seen the opportunity for economic payoff in spending more, rather than less, on infrastructure including transit.
At the end of February, Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason called on the government to boost spending to $6.2 billion and calculated by doing so the government could create 72,600 jobs.
Even more ironic is the $2 billion committed to carbon capture and sequestration remains untouched, despite the fact CCS is a dubious way to reduce greenhouse gases, at best.
Providing more funding for improved transit and as a result, coaxing individuals out of their cars would likely be a much wiser and greener investment.
It seems the provincial government really needs to examine its priorities and get them straight, though it’s possible, with a little encouragement from the public, that perhaps it might get things right, for once.