The Politics of Funding Municipal Public Transportation

Municipalities in Canada are charged with building, owning, and maintaining the majority of the infrastructure that supports the Canadian economy and quality of life. Despite the immediacy of municipal responsibilities to the welfare of Canadians, the term ‘local government’ never appears in Canada’s 1867 Constitution Act. Effectively, municipalities in Canada are “constitutional orphans” with no independent political life apart from what is legally granted to them by the provinces (Mendelson 2000, 73). Municipal power should be viewed within the context of an ongoing federal-provincial struggle for ascendancy that largely sets the course for equalization payment patterns and the distribution of federal funds (Frisken 2007, 104).

As a consequence, cities across Canada currently face an aggregate municipal infrastructure deficit of approximately $123 billion (Mirza 2007, 2). With most infrastructure having been constructed in the 1950s and 1970s, municipal infrastructure across Canada is long past its breaking point, and this is especially true with public transit in Toronto.

Currently, Canada is the only country in the OECD without a long-term federal transit-investment policy, leaving municipal decision-makers with increased responsibility for the provision of reliable transit without the proportional revenue tools necessary to provide such services (Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2012).

So who is to blame for these budget shortfalls? Why can’t Toronto have a world-class transit system like New York or London? Are the constitutional constraints placed upon Canadian municipalities really so crippling? Or, is it all just politics between the province and the fed? 

TTC Chair Josh Colle is in his second consecutive term as the Toronto City Councillor for Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence, and his first term as the Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission. Born and raised in Toronto, Josh brings a wealth of private sector and community experience to City Hall. He has worked in Toronto’s financial services sector, the transportation industry – including as Manager of Government Relations at the Greater Toronto Airport Authority – and served as Vice President of the energy and infrastructure firm Bridgepoint Group Ltd.

Abdullah Mayo has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Psychology from McMaster University and is currently enrolled in the Corporate Finance and Innovation graduate program at Harvard University. He is also currently CEO of RAIM, an organization that aims to create a more transparent and accessible framework for financing public infrastructure through citizen-driven investment projects. Abdullah also has experience working in operations, project management, political campaigns, the non-profit sector and in tech-startup.

Patrick Leclerc is the President and CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Association. Over the last few years, Patrick has led the transit industry’s efforts to raise the profile of public transit with the federal government and key stakeholders and decision makers across the country. With over 15 years of experience in the areas of government relations, public affairs and communications, Patrick has worked on Parliament Hill and in various industries and not-for-profit in Canada and overseas.

Celine Caira, Host
Ali Nasser Virji, Show Producer
Fiona Downey & Mohamad Yaghi,Technical Producers
Emily Rasmussen,Executive Producer

Music Credits

Not Your Girl by Max Black ft. Nadine Navarre

Photo Credit

Flickr/CC BY 2.0

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