I'm no fan of the way the province has kept stalling on the provincial gas tax revenues, but I think I agree with Leonard.
The money is part of the federal gas tax rebate announced in the former federal Liberal regime’s “New Deal” package. Under agreements reached with the Union of B.C. Municipalities, local municipalities will receive half of their rebates directly, with the other half going to the Capital Regional District for use on public transit.
But now some members of the CRD board want to change the formula and reallocate money to bike lanes, trails and sidewalks leaving but a portion to improve transit service.
Esquimalt Mayor Chris Clement doesn’t like the idea of sending the entire $11 million to transit.
“The money from the federal government is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he argued. “Bicycle and pedestrian initiatives have more impact than buying more buses or putting more bus services on the road.”
Clement sharply criticized Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, the main proponent of retaining the $11 million for transit.
If, Clement argued, that happens, it “lets the (provincial) government off the hook” for appropriate funding of transit.
“The (Regional Transit) Commission sees this as a way of solving their problem, rather than (asking) for a gas tax.”
Leonard, however, said the mayors of major cities lobbied former prime minister Paul Martin for gas tax revenues largely for transit system support. Those behind the lobby realized that not all towns and cities needed support for transit – or even had transit systems to support. Hence, groups like the UBCM worked with the federal government for a funding formula that would meet every municipality’s needs.
Locally, Greater Victoria towns and cities received their portion of half the allocated $22 million gas-tax rebate directly. ...
Under federal guidelines, gas tax revenues had to go either to a local government or regional body such as the CRD. Given that the transit commission is not a local government, the $11 [million] was to be given to the CRD, largely in trust and earmarked for the transit commission.
Reallocating that money outside of transit would leave a mere $4 million of $22 million grant for transit, Leonard noted.
Leonard dismisses claims the transit commission – on which he sits – isn’t seeking gas tax levies in the Capital Region.
“We keep asking (minister) Kevin Falcon, and he keeps deferring. We can keep doing that, but does that mean we take the federal gas tax money and not spend it on transit? It’s not practical. It’s political, but not practical.”
The $11 million was meant for transit, and should go there, Leonard argued.
“What are you going to do now? Not spend the money on regional transit because you’re mad at Gordon Campbell?” ...
The alternate plan, he said makes little sense: local municipalities have already gained money for infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks and bike lanes.
And, he notes, the CRD doesn’t actually do anything in terms of pedestrian infrastructure.
“I’m not convinced that the regional government should be in sidewalk business,” Leonard summarized. “There’s going to be more losers than winners on that.”
On another note, how are the various Victoria buses doing in the snow? I know that they briefly had to cancel all service several days ago.
I've earlier heard Victoria bus drivers say that many of the fleet's buses are virtually impossible to steer in icy conditions -- I think at least the British-built Dennis Dart smaller buses and the double deckers -- and possibly also the low-floor New Flyers, which make up the bulk of the fleet. The older high-floor buses are apparently the best ones for winter conditions.
I'd be curious to know if the new Nova low-floor buses are an improvement on the other low-floor ones -- I would imagine so, given that Montreal's fleet is mainly Nova low-floor buses.