Federal government providing $540M to support public transit in B.C.

Federal government providing $540M to support public transit in B.C.
File Photo
A BC Transit bus in Victoria. The BC government earmarked funding on July 22 for transit and local government.

The federal government has announced that an investment of $540 million will be allocated to British Columbia to support public transit across the province.

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Johnathan Wilkinson made revealed the economic aid funding during a press conference on Thursday morning.

According to Wilkinson, the province will match those funds, which are coming through Ottawa’s $19 billion Safe Restart plan for provinces and territories.

“This will allow communities across the province to continue to provide vital transit service to get front-line and essential workers to their jobs, or people to the grocery store, in a safe and efficient way,” said Wilkinson on Thursday.

In addition to investing in transit, the $19 billion from the government will go towards helping regions recovery, while staying safe. The government will invest in provincially-accessible personal protective equipment and increased access to testing along with other essential services that are important to communities.

“People need critical frontline services, including public transit, to get safely back to work and build back up our economy,” said Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna last week.Canada’s cities and towns provide those services. There’s no recovery without a municipal recovery. If our cities aren’t running, our economy isn’t running. The Safe Restart Agreement will help Canada get back on track.”

Earlier this week, British Columbia received $1 billion in funding from the federal government as part of the investment.

“British Columbians are depending on the government to provide help during the pandemic and build a resilient, secure future for our province,” Premier John Horgan said in regards to the federal investment. “That’s why I’m pleased this new funding will secure B.C.’s share of the federal government’s $19 billion Safe Restart program and ensure people have access to the critical services they need in their communities.”

On Wednesday, the province said it would be matching the $1 billion in federal government money to continue to address the impacts of COVID-19.

As far as public transit goes, the money will support local transit operators that have revenue shortfalls created by the pandemic.

Finance Minister Carole James says the federal government’s restart program also includes funds to support health care, child care, vulnerable populations and a sick leave program.

James introduced the supplementary estimates in the legislature Wednesday for up to $1 billion to fund the province’s portion of municipal and transit services help, depending on the outcome of further federal cost-share discussions.

James announced last week that B.C. forecasted budget had gone from a surplus to an expected deficit of $12.5 billion because of the pandemic.

Horgan has previously said the province expects a total of $2.2 billion in federal transfers to B.C. under the federal agreement.

READ MORE: More Compressed Natural Gas buses coming to Victoria: BC Transit

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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