Budgets Cuts in Alberta Create Transit Chaos

TORONTO, OCTOBER 29— The Amalgamated Transit Union Canada says the 2019 budget in Alberta throws transit projects into turmoil. “By breaking their promises to maintain transit infrastructure spending, the Alberta government led by Jason Kenney has created chaos,” said ATU Canada President John Di Nino. “The party platform said they would maintain the existing plans on major transit projects, but once elected the UCP revoked that pledge.”

The 2019 capital plan reduces the province’s contributions to the Green Line in Calgary and the Valley Line in Edmonton. Di Nino says that trying to build transit projects without the provincial government’s investment will be difficult.

“The Kenney government deferred its payments until after 2022-23. It’s a cut of 86% of what they promised. So Alberta’s cities now have to pay a larger portion upfront to get construction started. With debt ceiling limits and other spending priorities, finding extra money for upfront costs will be nearly impossible. Do we actually trust this government to even contribute after 2022-23? There is no actual deadline when they will assist the municipalities with dedicated investment.”

The ATU Canada President is also criticizing the Alberta government for cutting the Alberta Community Transit Fund.

“From expansion of transit, to station redesign, to electric bus procurement, the cancelling of the Alberta Community Transit Fund has taken all that off the table. Necessary upgrades to transit are now totally out the window.”

Di Nino is also taking issue with the Alberta government’s reliance on the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).

“The provincial government has told us that through the ICIP federal flow-through money for these projects will continue and replace the provincial commitment. The trouble is that the city still needs to pay 60% of the costs up front and only once the project is completed and the receipts submitted, will the cities get the 40% flow-through money from ICIP. The ICIP does not meet the needs of transit projects right now and requires insurmountable sums of upfront money with little guarantees of seeing that money down the road,” added Di Nino.

The ATU Canada President argues that all these things show the failure of public-private partnerships.

“When city councils turn to the private sector to build transit, very little actually happens. These P3 transit projects are now at a standstill yet city councils in Alberta have to pay the private contractors. Had these projects like the Valley Line West LRT been kept in-house, city councils would have the flexibility to adapt to provincial inaction and broken promises on funding municipal projects,” said Di Nino. “Transit for our riders would actually work if the federal government provided dedicated funding for operations that kept operations, maintenance, and construction in the public domain.”


John Di Nino 

416 938 0746