PRESS RELEASE                                                                                                                      


TORONTO August 10, 2020—Amalgamated Transit Union Canada, President John Di Nino is calling out New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs for misleading New Brunswickers about the Federal Government’s funding program that could help struggling transit operations recover from devastating financial losses due to COVID-19.   

Di Nino is referring to the Prime Minister’s announcement about the Safe Restart Agreement where the Federal Government will make $19 billion available to the provinces to help restart the economy with help for municipalities. It was abundantly clear that $1.8 billion of those funds was specifically set aside for transit operations – with the condition that each province must match the transit funding they receive.

On July 31st, when asked why New Brunswick refused the federal funds for transit operations, Higgs told reporters that the funding program was not designed for smaller provinces and New Brunswick did not qualify. “The federal funding was offered to all provinces and territories and the only requirement is that provinces must match the transit funds they receive,” said Di Nino.

Higgs also told reporters that the funding program was only intended for the larger provinces, to be used for big infrastructure projects, and New Brunswick does not need a subway.  “How is it possible that this Premier is so far out in left field?  Someone, please tell him, the funds were specifically for transit operations – not infrastructure,” said Di Nino.

There also appears to be a disconnect between Higgs and the needs of the Municipalities.  Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold told reporters that the City was never consulted about the federal funding program, the decision was just made.  She said this type of funding is exactly what the New Brunswick Cities Association have been asking for since the start of the pandemic as many transit agencies are facing large deficits. Arnold also said cities don’t have a choice, they have to balance their budgets and missing out on transit-specific funds will likely lead to hard decisions on what does and does not get funded.

Dieppe Mayor Yves Lapierre also expressed his disappointment with the Higgs Government’s decision to turn down the federal transit funding.  He believes it’s absolutely essential to invest and improve public transportation for New Brunswickers – and more people on public transit will also help reduce our carbon footprint in the region.  He urges the government to accept the federal funds. 

“The Mayors get it.  The Federal Government gets it.  Taxpayers get it.  If the Premier doesn’t get it by now…he’s missed the bus!  The real issue is that Public Transit has been underfunded for years.  No matter how much money is transferred to provinces and cities, there is never enough to support transit operations – and this is exactly why the Federal Government specifically set money aside for transit operations,” said Di Nino.

“The need for safe, reliable, and affordable public transit is just as important in New Brunswick as it is in any other province.  New Brunswickers have a right to know that their government has made an irresponsible decision to let public transit fail by not investing in it. This decision will have long-term negative impacts – especially for the most vulnerable in society who rely on transit.  All levels of government have a responsibility to invest in public transit,”  Di Nino continued.

“We demand that the Higgs Government reconsider its decision and move forward with a provincial commitment to match the federal funding contribution because public transit is a social good and every $1 invested in transit delivers $4 in economic growth. It is critical to New Brunswick’s economic recovery,” said Di Nino.

The Amalgamated Transit Union is made up of 34,000 transit professionals in nine Canadian provinces. They represent vehicle operators, maintenance staff, paratransit operations, clerical staff, dispatchers, administrative professionals and workers in the over-the-road motor coach industry. The union was founded in 1892 and represents workers in Canada’s urban, suburban and rural communities. 


Media Contact:

John Di Nino
ATU Canada President
Phone: 416-938-0746