Mayors ask feds to ensure provinces offer more cash for transit projects

Mayors look for more transit dollars

OTTAWA — The mayors of Canada’s biggest cities are asking the federal government to prod their provincial counterparts to pony up more cash for transit projects.

In a letter sent this week to Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, the head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ big-city mayors’ caucus asks the Liberals to make sure that provinces match federal funding for transit projects, so as not to saddle cities with more costs.

The mayors want federal and provincial governments to cover 80 per cent of eligible project costs, leaving cities to cover the remaining portion, which is more than the traditional three-way funding split in many existing infrastructure programs.

The arrangement, the letter says, would “drive future projects forward” and ease the financial burden on cities who cover maintenance costs as well.

“Without matching provincial contributions for future projects, cities would face unsustainable cost burdens over the next 10 years, even as we face growing pressures on municipal revenues,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson wrote in the letter, dated April 24.

Iveson also asks the Liberals to allow cities to expense more than just construction costs, including legal, design, planning and long-term capital-related financing costs, and allow them to pool transit funding from other infrastructure programs without the worry that dollars will be clawed back.

Brook Simpson, a spokesman for Sohi, said provinces and territories are spending significantly on infrastructure, and the Liberals “expect that they will continue to do so.”

The letter comes as the federal government looks to set the funding parameters for its long-term infrastructure plan, which includes $25.3 billion over 10 years for public transit projects.

The federal government plans to cover up to 40 per cent of transit expansion projects under the upcoming phase of its infrastructure plan, and half the cost of repairs. Under the first phase of the program, the federal government covered half of eligible costs.

The Liberals hoped the change in funding rules under the second phase of the government’s infrastructure would nudge provinces to match federal cash.

The federal government will begin negotiating funding arrangements that will outline how the new infrastructure money can be spent and how much the provinces are expected to pay for projects.

Simpson said the details of the Liberals long-term infrastructure plan, including cost-sharing requirements, will be made public before negotiations start later this spring.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press