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Transit Awareness Days a success in Ottawa

Jeff Mackey, Public Policy Coordinator, CUTA

It’s a critical time for transit in Canada. Unprecedented investments in urban mobility are being made across the country, a new minister of infrastructure has been appointed, and each day brings us closer to the 2019 federal election. As MPs, senators and key stakeholders began a busy fall sitting of Parliament, the Canadian urban transit industry came together on Parliament Hill and spoke with a single voice on issues important to the mobility and sustainability of Canadian communities.

The event started on Monday, September 17 with a day-long policy forum at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. The forum was attended by nearly 120 people, the biggest turnout in the event’s three-year history.

The recently appointed Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, François-Philippe Champagne, opened the forum with an enthusiastic speech that celebrated the social and economic impacts of transit investments in Canada. The speech was a great introduction of the Minister to transit stakeholders. He was first elected to the House of Commons in October 2015, and in 2017 was appointed Minister of International Trade. He was named Minister of Infrastructure and Communities in July 2018. His remarks at the CUTA conference were his first public appearance in Ottawa since taking on his new portfolio.

The policy forum brought compelling urban mobility speakers to Ottawa, including TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Kelly Gillis, Louis Trudel of CDPQ Infra, Carolyn Flowers of AECOM and Josh Colle of the TTC, to name only a few. You can see the full policy forum program here. The day included sessions on ridership trends in Canada, how best to procure, build and maintain rail projects, how we should be planning our cities, how students can support transit system growth and how alternative funding sources for transit systems can support operational expenses.

Day two of Transit Awareness Days saw nearly 70 CUTA members sitting down with 55 MPs, senators and other key stakeholders. Meetings were held with major federal decision-makers such as Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, President of the Treasury Board, Scott Brison and the chiefs of staff for the Ministers of Finance and Infrastructure.

Throughout CUTA’s day on the hill, CUTA members delivered four key messages, as follows:

  • The federal government should draft a national congestion action plan that addresses how best to reduce the negative impacts of congestion on the Canadian economy.
  • A new green infrastructure program should be created, providing financial incentives to cover a portion of the incremental cost for fleets in the transit sector to upgrade to low-carbon vehicles.
  • We want urban transit to be a part of the autonomous vehicle (AV) conversation so that we can share our expertise and encourage the adoption of shared mobility in the new framework.
  • The federal government should reimburse a larger portion of eligible claims submitted through the Investing in Canada Plan. This will get money out of Ottawa and into communities faster and more predictably.

Just before question period began, Greg Fergus, MP for Hull-Aylmer, made a Member’s statement thanking CUTA for its work in promoting urban mobility, a comment that received applause from all sides of the aisle. Judy Sgro, MP for Humber River-Black Creek, Chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and long-time CUTA supporter, also hosted a lunch for CUTA at the Parliamentary Restaurant. Both MPs Sgro and Fergus were very generous with their time and are great champions for urban mobility at the federal level.

In the evening, while presiding over votes, Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan hosted CUTA for a speakers’ reception in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill. The event was co-sponsored by Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Marco Mendicino, Conservative Critic for Infrastructure, Communities and Urban Affairs Matt Jeneroux, and NDP Critic for Transport, Robert Aubin. Minister Champagne made a surprise appearance at the event and spoke about the government’s priorities on infrastructure investment.

Transit Awareness Days continue to grow each year and the event has become a tradition for many CUTA members and parliamentarians. With the federal election expected to overlap with next year’s event, the CUTA Public Affairs team is thinking innovatively to determine how to capitalize on this momentum on urban transit policy.

We would like to thank all the people who helped made this year’s event such a success. Without the support of a dedicated team, transit champions on Parliament Hill and our effective and motivated members, this event would not have been possible.

 

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