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Thursday, February 23, 2017

B.C. budget falls short on critical transit investment and climate action


VANCOUVER - February 22, 2017 (Investorideas.com Newswire) David Suzuki Foundation - The B.C. government has failed to prioritize badly needed transit infrastructure investment in its latest budget. Based on details provided, investment over the next three years will continue to fall short of what Metro Vancouver and the province need to build and maintain fast, effective public transit.
"Anticipated budget surpluses over the next three years are dwarfed by the growing costs of congestion in B.C.," said David Suzuki Foundation policy analyst Steve Kux. "Traffic congestion costs Metro Vancouver alone over $1 billion a year -- and that's expected to balloon to $2 billion by 2045. Failing to commit to increased investment in transit is a missed opportunity no matter how you look at it."
Kux emphasized that this is a critical moment for the province to follow the federal government's lead on infrastructure improvement.
In November 2016, the federal government committed to provide $25.3 billion for public transit infrastructure projects across the country over the next 11 years, including up to 50 per cent of funds needed for specific projects. However, to secure this investment, provincial and municipal governments have to cooperate to produce the remaining 50 per cent.
"The B.C. government has only committed to a fraction of the funding needed to achieve the needed transit improvements across Metro Vancouver, the province's most congested region," Kux said. "Instead of pledging a fair share of investment, the B.C. government has prioritized tax cuts that will benefit the wealthiest British Columbians most and give financial protections to polluting industries like liquefied natural gas. This lack of investment will lead to costly delays in improvements that are needed today."
In Breaking gridlock, the Foundation's 2016 report on B.C.'s transit investment deficit, Kux and Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce found the government has underfunded transit since 2008. Eight years into the 12-year Provincial Transit Plan, only 23 per cent of the provincial contributions have been realized.
The budget also falls short on reducing carbon emissions. Although it provides a $40 million top-up to the Clean Energy Vehicle Program, it fails to strengthen the province's carbon tax and focuses more attention on financial incentives for fracked natural gas, which is a major contributor to climate change.
"The province continues to pin its hopes on LNG and new hydro projects at the expense of innovation and supporting job growth in areas like clean tech," Kux said. "Clean energy organizations are leaving this province, and we're falling behind the rest of the country and the world."
The Canadian Wind Energy Association shut down its B.C. operations last year, citing better opportunities in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Other low-carbon, job-creating industries could follow if B.C. does not commit to help transition the world off of fossil fuels.
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Emily Fister, Communications Specialist - 604-440-5470
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