Analysis A new announcement from the Province on funding for rural transportation systems across Ontario will see $1.6 billion unlocked for 85 eligible municipalities outside of Toronto and Hamilton – including Kawartha Lakes.
However, the Advocate has learned that because the money from both the Province and federal government is based on a municipality’s current ridership share, Kawartha Lakes can access only $1.7 million in funding. Compare this to the City of Peterborough which will get $26 million from the provincial share alone – despite the fact that the population of the City of Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes is almost the same (with Peterborough’s 81,000 vs Kawartha Lake’s 75,000.)
On April 2, municipalities will be able to nominate their most critical public transit projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). This stream will fund construction, expansion and improvement of public transit networks.
The first intake of the Public Transit stream of the 10-year infrastructure program will unlock up to $1.62 billion in joint provincial and federal funding for critical public transit outside the Greater Toronto Hamilton area. In total, the funding will unlock up to $30 billion in combined federal, provincial, and local investments in Ontario communities as part of a 10-year bilateral agreement.
However, funding is allocated to transit systems based on their share of total transit ridership in Ontario as per the 2015 Canadian Urban Transit Association Fact Book. This allocations-based funding model was set by the federal government and agreed to by the previous provincial government at the time.
Jason Wang, a policy advisor for Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton, says the Ministry “has raised this issue before with the federal government and asked for more flexibility” in how the funding could be shared. That flexibility was not forthcoming.
The 85 municipalities that are eligible will have eight weeks to submit their applications for the funding.
Director of Public Works, Bryan Robinson, for the City of Kawartha Lakes just learned about the funding today as well. He says they are “reviewing the new funding opportunity just announced.”
“We’ll look at every possible option to enhance our current transit system to benefit the community. More details will be shared as we move forward.”
This failure of imagination by the federal government in setting up this funding model will clearly not be enough on its own to launch a viable, rural transit plan for Kawartha Lakes.
While Wang says the funding can be used for “safety, capacity, and quality” when it comes to transportation infrastructure, clearly the federal government missed an opportunity to help those municipalities that do not yet have viable transportation networks.
“Our communities count on commuter infrastructure to get people to work and home again to their families,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure. “Our government’s investment will make public transit infrastructure better, safer, and more accessible.”
That might be true for those municipalities that have a full system in place already. In the meantime, more creative solutions, backed by real investments, are needed in the City of Kawartha Lakes to achieve a rural transit solution.