Federal parties talk transit as an election priority

Funding, climate change and traffic congestion dominate discussion at Transit Policy Forum

If there is one subject that all Canadian political parties agree on leading up to the October 21 federal election, it is that public transit is an important campaign issue.

Representatives from the four main parties took to the stage yesterday at the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s Transit Policy Forum in Vancouver to present their political platforms on transit and infrastructure during the writ period.

Representing the parties were Terry Beech, Member of Parliament (MP) for Burnaby North Seymour (Liberals); David Cavey, Candidate for Vancouver Centre (Conservatives); Don Davies, MP for Vancouver Kingsway (NDP); and Paul Manly, MP for Nanaimo—Ladysmith (Greens). All four speakers talked about how important transit is for voters in British Columbia, with some providing details on what their parties would do to support more frequent and accessible services to commuters across the province. 

Also speaking at the forum, transit industry executives and stakeholders presented on the opportunities and challenges facing Canadian systems today, including their policy recommendations to all levels of government for improved services. In the first panel, entitled The state of new urban mobility in Canada, Calgary Transit Director and CUTA Board of Directors Chair Doug Morgan stressed that the most important metric for success is service reliability which he said would suffer if systems do not have dedicated and reliable government funding. Jennifer McNeill, Vice President for Sales and Marketing at New Flyer Industries and CUTA Business Members Vice-Chair, talked about the tremendous innovations that are underway in transit, including bus electrification. “Over the next 10 years you’re going to see more change in transit than you’ve seen in the last 50 years,” she said.

During the second panel, which focused on Transit that moves BC, President and CEO of BC Transit Erinn Pinkerton pointed out that local systems worked hard to implement service changes and to develop better infrastructure that leads to ridership growth. TransLink CEO and CUTA Communications and Public Affairs Vice-Chair Kevin Desmond said Translink’s ridership growth of 18% over three years has led to overcrowding, and he explained his agency’s long-term transit planning strategy Transport 2050, which includes broad public engagement to help plan for the city’s expected 50% growth in population in the next 30 years.

The event featured a keynote speech from former City of Vancouver Chief Planner Brent Toderian who provided the audience with food for thought on the top five crises for city building. He underlined that although it is important to make current federal public transit funding permanent so that cities and regions can develop long-term plans, cities also need funding to be increased based on current levels.

CUTA CEO Marco D’Angelo said the forum was timed to bring together industry players to share ideas ahead of the election in October. Speaking after the forum, he said: “We are pleased to see that all political parties consider public transit a key policy area to debate and discuss with Canadian voters before the vote. A good example of this was the Conservative Party’s proposal to reintroduce the public transit tax credit, which would be welcome news to the five million Canadians who use public transit every day.”

CUTA’s Policy Forum series is part of its Priority Transit campaign which seeks to raise awareness among political parties of the importance of transit as a priority election issue. A public opinion poll commissioned by CUTA in April found that:

  • 9/10 respondents said that government needs to invest more in public transit, and;
  • 9/10 respondents said transit helps the environment.

The forum was generously co-hosted by the Edmonton Transit Service. For further details on the program, including a summary of audience participants, please click here.

CUTA is hosting a French-language Transit Policy Forum on October 3 at Polytechnique Montréal. For additional details on the program, please click here. Follow CUTA on social media and on our Priority Transit campaign website for more details and event announcements.

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For further information:

Chad Jeudy-Hugo
Director, Strategic Communications and Public Affairs