While some industry associations are applauding the budget announcements, others are strongly criticising it. According to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), with its recent budget the Harper government has failed the many cities and towns across Canada that are starved for the funds they need to improve public transit and reduce wasteful congestion in their communities. Instead, the federal budget put off any federal investment in transit until 2017 while at the same time requiring municipalities to waste public money forming discredited public private partnerships (P3s) before they will have any access to these much needed funds.
“Study after study has shown that traffic congestion in Canadian cities is leading to huge social and economic costs. Time and money are being wasted as people and goods sit stuck in traffic due to the government’s failure to invest in transit infrastructure in Canada” says Mike Mahar, Director of ATU Canada.
“With more than $2.7 billion in congestion related economic costs in Southern Ontario alone, ATU Canada had expected that the federal budget would commit significant funds in the budget towards the many municipal transit projects that are planned and ready to go across Canada. That however, didn’t happen.” Mahar continued.
Instead, the Harper government’s budget provides only limited funding for public transit starting two years from now. More importantly, municipalities and transit agencies who want to access those funds will first have to agree to turn their public infrastructure projects over to profit driven public private partnerships.
These partnerships, known as P3s, have repeatedly failed transit users in Canada and around the world and have been harshly criticized by such independent experts as Ontario’s auditor general.
From London, England to Montreal and Toronto here in Canada, P3 models have simply not worked to provide public transit. In the end, these P3 projects have cost taxpayers more than would have been the case had public agencies simply built and operated public transit infrastructure as they have for many years.
“P3s simply don’t work” noted Mahar. He pointed out that Ontario’s auditor general in her 2014 annual report concluded that building public infrastructure using the P3s model had cost Ontario taxpayers $8 billion more in additional tendering costs over a ten year period. “We simply can’t afford to waste any of the little money the Harper government has committed to public transit on providing profits for large corporations” Mahar concluded.