In its budget announcement earlier this month, the province promised $70 million would finally be paid from the highly touted Green Transit Incentives Program (Green TRIP), but after breaking similar promises since Green TRIP was first unveiled in July 2008, I don’t think we should hold our breath.
A brief history of Green TRIP demonstrates why this funding might never come to be.
The $2-billion program, aimed to promote the use of local, regional and inter-city public transit, was first announced in July 2008 with full details promised by that fall. By November, the Alberta government cut the funding to $1.6 billion.
Granted, the recession was underway when the funding was reduced; however, Green TRIP funding was part of the same climate change action plan as $2 billion set aside for carbon capture and storage (CCS) funding, and that funding has never been in jeopardy. In fact, all money from the CCS fund has been allocated to corporations such as Shell and TransAlta.
In the February 2009 budget, we were told $195 million would be directed towards Green TRIP initially, with $10 million to $50 million in that budget year. By November, that commitment was also reneged on.
It’s déjà vu all over again. This month, $70 million has been promised for this budget year with program and application details to be released later in the year. An additional $200 million has been pledged for the following two years, leaving the bulk of the $2 billion yet to be acknowledged.
Tammy Forbes, Alberta Transportation spokesperson, defended the lack of action, saying, “It was announced as a multi-year program and because it is a project specific program it does not have a specific time period.”
That argument doesn’t fly. The CCS fund was fully allocated within two years. Further, the Stelmach government now plans to take its energy and environment education blitz to Alberta classrooms to teach children about CCS — a controversial technology.
Meanwhile, tangible opportunities are being squandered. Communities like Cochrane, High River, Okotoks and Airdrie are eager to expand public transit options for commuters heading into Calgary.
Public transit investment provides local jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and clears traffic congestion. The province is doing a disservice to its climate change action plan and to its citizens by not taking its funding commitments to Green TRIP seriously.