Federal Transit Investment must be a Priority during Election



    TORONTO, Oct. 10 /CNW/ - Transit leaders today renewed their call on
federal party leaders to make public transit investment a key priority.
    In September of 2008, CUTA issued a survey with three questions to each
of the federal party leaders, in order to address some of the chief concerns
related to public transit, and learn about where each party stands on this
issue.
    The survey was sent following the release of two distinct reports. The
first - a joint public opinion poll commissioned by CUTA and the Federation of
Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in late August 2008 - concluded that there is
not enough transit service to meet new demand. More than 20 percent of
respondents said they are considering a switch to public transit, and that
number would increase if improvements are made to existing service or if gas
prices continue to rise.
    The second - a groundbreaking economic study conducted by HDR Economics
Inc. - demonstrated that Canada is clearly underinvested in urban transit. The
study analyzed the optimal supply and demand for urban transit in Canada, and
concluded that the economically and socially optimal level of transit supply
in 2006 would have required an estimated 74 percent more service than actually
supplied.
    "The opinion poll and economic study demonstrate that there is a definite
and urgent need to commit significant new investment in public transit
infrastructure for Canadian communities," said Steve New, CUTA Chair.
"Canadians believe that transit is a priority, and federal party leaders
should recognize this through long-term, sustainable funding."
    Each of the federal parties have identified steps that they will take
regarding public transit, either in response to the CUTA survey questions or
from published campaign platforms. Highlights include:

    
    Conservative Party of Canada:

    -   Reduce the federal excise tax on diesel and aviation fuel by half -
        from four cents per litre to two cents per litre - reducing the price
        of transportation and helping to bring downward pressure on consumer
        prices. This would represent a savings in transit operating costs of
        approximately $5 to $10 million per year across Canada.

    -   Continue to transfer 5 cents per litre of the federal excise tax on
        gasoline (equivalent to about $2 billion per year) to municipalities
        for infrastructure investment, including public transit).

    Liberal Party of Canada:

    -   Maintain the $1.9 billion already announced for transit for the years
        2009-2012/13 and allocate at least $8.2 billion for the years 2009/10
        to 2018/19 for a National Transit Strategy that will enable our
        cities to expand their systems and green their transit fleets. A
        Liberal government will develop an Infrastructure Bank as an
        additional tool to finance infrastructure investment.

    -   Transfer of almost $25 billion over 10 years, indexed to the GDP, to
        municipalities through the federal gas tax transfer. The Liberals
        will invest the entire amount of any future unanticipated surplus
        that exceeds the $3-billion contingency reserve into Canada's
        infrastructure.

    -   The Liberal Green Shift Plan provides an exemption for motor vehicle
        gasoline, but will implement a pollution tax on diesel fuel, rising
        to seven cents per litre by year four. This could represent an
        increase in transit operating costs of approximately
        $20 to $30 million per year across Canada.

    New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP):

    -   Invest $4 billion in stable, annual transit funding over the
        first four years. The plan combines an extra cent from the existing
        gas tax with revenue raised by the sale of carbon permits to big
        polluters directly into green transit solutions, beginning at
        $350 million a year.

    Bloc Québécois:

    -   Continue to pressure the federal government to raise the amount of
        the gas tax transferred to municipalities to 5 cents per litre three
        months sooner than currently planned (January 2009 instead of
        April 2009).

    -   Change the rules regarding the tax credit for public transit passes
        such that, even if a person doesn't have sufficient income to claim
        the tax credit, they could still be allowed to claim a portion of
        their transit expenses in their income tax returns.

    Green Party of Canada:

    -   Increase the GST from 5% to 6%, creating an additional $3 billion in
        revenue annually dedicated directly to urban infrastructure. Some of
        this additional funding would be directed toward public transit.

    -   Make transit passes tax-deductible to encourage workers and
        businesses to use public transit.

    -   Change the tax rules to create a Municipal Registered Retirement
        Savings Plans bond that could be held in RRSPs. The monies could be
        borrowed by municipalities to invest in critical infrastructure such
        as transit.
    

    "CUTA is pleased to see that each of the federal party leaders has made
announcements and policy statements in support of transit during the current
election campaign," said Michael Roschlau, CUTA President and CEO. "However,
CUTA is calling on party leaders to specifically get things rolling now by
adding a dedicated top-up to the existing federal gas tax fund for transit.
The fund is in place, it works and we all understand it."
    Canadians are continuing to choose transit at unprecedented levels.
Sustainable growth needs to be matched with predictable and sustainable
funding, and only with the implementation of a well-coordinated National
Transit Strategy will this be possible.
    "Long-term, dedicated investment for public transit is needed to meet the
mobility needs of all Canadians," concluded New. "The implementation of a
national transit strategy will help Canadian transit systems achieve their
true potential and provide significant economic, environmental and social
benefits for the entire nation."

    CUTA is the national association representing public transit systems,
suppliers to the industry, government agencies, individuals and related
organizations in Canada.



    
    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Federal Transit Investment: An Election Priority

    There is an urgent need to commit significant new investment to public
transit infrastructure in Canadian communities. Canadians believe transit is a
priority and CUTA urges federal leaders to take on this issue by providing
long-term sustainable funding to public transit systems and adopting changes
to transit tax policy to benefit Canadians.

    New investments are urgently needed
    -----------------------------------

    -   60 per cent of Canadians say that rising gas prices are forcing them
        to rethink their transportation choices.
    -   20 per cent of Canadians say that, because of high gas prices, they
        are already considering a switch to public transit. This could result
        in a surge in ridership demand.
    -   More than 6 in 10 Canadians say they would be more likely to take
        public transit if service was improved.
    -   According to a groundbreaking economic study, the current provision
        of transit service (959.2 million in 2006) is too little to optimize
        the provision of urban transportation in Canada.
    -   The economically and socially optimal level of transit supply in 2006
        would have required an estimated 1.7 billion vehicle-kilometres of
        transit service, or 74 percent more service than actually supplied.

    What the Conservatives are saying
    ---------------------------------

    In its 2008 budget, the Conservative government made the Gas Tax Fund -
which will be worth $2 billion in 2009-2010 - a permanent measure, and
announced a $500 million Public Transit Capital Trust to improve public
transit infrastructure.
    A re-elected Conservative Government will reduce the federal excise tax on
diesel and aviation fuel by half - from four cents per litre to two cents per
litre - reducing the price of transportation and helping to bring downward
pressure on consumer prices. This would represent a modest savings in transit
operating costs of approximately $5 to $10 million per year across Canada.

    What the Liberals are saying
    ----------------------------

    The Liberals have said they will not spend any less than the current
commitments of the federal government. They will maintain the $1.9 billion
already announced for transit for the years 2009-2012/13 and allocate at least
$8.2 billion for the years 2009/10 to 2018/19 for a National Transit Strategy
that will enable our cities to expand their systems and green their transit
fleets. A Liberal government will develop an Infrastructure Bank as an
additional tool to finance infrastructure investment.
    In addition, the Liberals' 10-year plan includes the transfer of almost
$25 billion - indexed to the GDP - to municipalities through the federal gas
tax transfer. The Liberals will invest the entire amount of any future
unanticipated surplus that exceeds the $3 billion contingency reserve into
Canada's infrastructure. Public transit is one of the priorities that qualify
for investment in sustainable infrastructure.
    The Liberal Green Shift Plan provides an exemption for motor vehicle
gasoline, but will implement a pollution tax on diesel fuel, rising to seven
cents per litre by year four. This could represent an increase in transit
operating costs of approximately $20 to $30 million per year across Canada.

    What the New Democrats are saying
    ---------------------------------

    The New Democratic Party (NDP) has promised to invest $4 billion in
stable, annual transit funding over the first four years of its program.
    The plan combines an extra cent from the existing gas tax with revenue
raised by the sale of carbon permits to big polluters directly into green
transit solutions, beginning at $350 million a year.

    What the Bloc Québécois is saying
    ---------------------------------

    The Bloc Québécois was pleased to see the Gas Tax Fund made permanent
beyond 2014 in the 2008 budget. However, given the financial requirements of
Québec municipalities, the Bloc Québécois will continue to pressure the
federal government so the full five cents per litre of the gas tax is
transferred to the municipalities immediately, as opposed starting in the
2009-10 fiscal year as planned. Finally, the Bloc Québécois proposes to change
the rules regarding the tax credit for public transit passes such that, even
if a person doesn't have sufficient income to claim the tax credit, they could
claim a portion of their transit expenses on their income tax return.

    What the Green Party is saying
    ------------------------------

    The Green Party would increase the GST from 5% to 6%, creating an
additional $3 billion in revenue annually, dedicated directly to urban
infrastructure. Some of this additional funding would be directed toward
public transit. The Greens would also make transit passes tax-deductible to
encourage workers and businesses to use public transportation. They would also
provide financial support to provinces, which provide free public transit
passes to people living below the poverty line.
    The Green Party would change the tax rules to create a Municipal
Registered Retirement Savings Plans bond that could be held in RRSP's. The
monies would be borrowed by municipalities to invest in critical
infrastructure such as transit.

    What can be done now
    --------------------

    CUTA is calling on party leaders to get things rolling now by adding a
dedicated top-up to the existing federal gas tax fund for transit. The fund is
in place, it works and we all understand it.

    For a review of party platforms, see
    http://www.transitaction.ca/federalelection/index.html
    





For further information:

For further information: Maureen Shuell, CUTA Director of
Communications, (416) 898-5600 (cell), (416) 365-9800 ext. 105 (office),
www.cutaactu.ca

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Canadian Urban Transit Association

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FEDERAL ELECTION 2008

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