Winner – New Business of the Year

Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure. Photo: Roderick Benns.

CKL shafted: Billions in new rural transit money — but based on current ridership levels

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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.)

Billions in new funding for rural transit announced.

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.

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.


  1. Further to the suggestion that the federal government ‘missed an opportunity to help those municipalities that do not yet have a viable transportation system.’ I’d like to refresh Mr. McNaughton’s memory, concerning the City of Kawartha Lakes, that the city did not continue with a rural transit trial despite the fact the advisory board recommended its continuation because ridership continued to increase. It is up to the City to initiate its own transit system. The City chose NOT to do anything. It is NOT the federal governments responsibility to be a baby sitter to all municipalities. There is a significant need for a rural transit system here in the City of Kawartha Lakes but until there is the political will nothing will happen. BTW where is the province in assisting the city? We have a member of the governments cabinet. Where does she stand on getting the necessary funds for this need. The silence is deafening. Par for the course

  2. I can only hope that our councillors will be smart enough to seize the opportunity to develop more transit.
    Last time, they could not get the submission ready in time so refused to participate! With all their staff and paid consultants, surely they can summon up energy to get in on this once over deal. Other communities, like Peterborough are thriving and improving, while Kawartha Lakes is being, as usual, stuck in a time warp. Attracting tourists and renovating downtown Lindsay seems to be their only concerns. Their is not even a decent restroom downtown, let alone decent shopping.

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