Dear Finance Minister Freeland,
With the impending end of the Safe Restart Agreement at the end of March and with an upcoming budget on April 19th, 2021, our coalition of transit workers and riders from across the country has increasing concerns about the future of public transit in a post pandemic world.
You may recall that our coalition penned a letter to you and the Prime Minister in December, highlighting the imminent need for ongoing funding to help transit operations recover the financial losses incurred during the pandemic. Public support for such funding, at 78% of Canadians, according to Probe Research, has not waned and the need remains as important and imminent.
We have been encouraged to see government announcements in support of transit — notably the $14.9 billion pledged towards capital projects over eight years. This proves that your government recognizes the role that transit plays in the daily lives of working and middle-class Canadians.
However, as budget time approaches, we write to you again to emphasize that capital spending alone will not ensure the future of safe, affordable and reliable public transit in a post-pandemic world. New transit projects so funded will be much less effective or functional and may not realize fully the intended economic impact on recovery and employment if they lack operational funding.
Millions of workers including doctors, nurses, LTC workers, food production, transport and retail staff, seniors, low-income populations, people with disabilities, and newcomers need access to reliable and affordable transit to get to work and access services. If transit does not receive adequate operational funding, essential services, including paratransit for seniors and people with disabilities, will be interrupted. This will harm the health and quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens, as well as the functioning of the health care system itself.
Our North American partner to the south has recognized this, and newly elected President Biden has enacted legislation putting some $30 billion extra into the coffers of hard hit public transit agencies for their daily operations, recognizing that any robust and equitable COVID recovery effort must include operating funding for safe, dependable and affordable public transit.
The end of the Safe Restart Agreement would mean an end to stable, emergency funding during this difficult time and, without provision for operations funding, would put not only the jobs of transit workers at risk, but the jobs of millions of essential workers who rely upon it. This is the very antithesis of what a strong and robust recovery program should be.
To this end, we urge your government to reach out to provinces and municipalities once again and renew the Safe Restart Agreement in your upcoming Federal Budget. We also ask you to extend the Agreement to include a substantial element of operations funding and give municipalities more control over the design, implementation and operation of their transit systems. Municipalities are on the front lines of the safe restart of the economy, and this increased funding will be crucial in creating jobs, promoting public health and meeting government climate targets.
We look forward to your response and commitment to enacting these measures.
Abundant Transit BC
Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria
Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit
Bus Riders of Saskatoon
Calgary Alliance for the Common Good
Canada Without Poverty
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Canadian Engaged Buddhism Association
Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
Canadian Health Association for Sustainability & Equity
Canadian Health Association for Sustainability and Equity (CHASE)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
CAPE: Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Climate Action Network
Climate Justice Saskatoon
Climate Reality Project Canada
Coalition for a Livable Sudbury
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
Council of Canadians
Council of Canadians, Saskatoon Chapter
CUSP – Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
Doctors for Safe Cycling
Fondation David Suzuki (Québec)
Free Transit Edmonton
Free Transit Ottawa
Friends of Sudbury Transit
Functional Transit WInnipeg
Global Peace Alliance BC Society
Green Jobs Oshawa
Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion
Hamilton Transit Riders Union
London Cycle Link
London Environmental Network
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Ottawa Transit Riders
Poverty Free Thunder Bay
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
Réseau québécois sur l’intégration continentale
Scarborough Transit Action
SEIU Local 2
The David Suzuki Foundation
Transit Action Alliance of Guelph
Vegans & Vegetarians of Alberta