MPs weigh in on 2017 budget
Chris Bittle hopes the federalgovernment can help make inter-municipal transit a reality in Niagara.
“A lot of the larger municipalities have been lobbying for the next phase of infrastructure money and public transit to go based on ridership, and that’s great if you’re Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and have an established transit system,” said the St. Catharines Liberal MP.
“But I’ve been lobbying hard that there be a separate fund for emerging transit systems so that if there is a merger in Niagara, that money can be applied to really develop that and grow the system, rather than just be based on ridership numbers.” Finance Minister Bill Morneau is scheduled to introduce the government’s latest budget Wednesday.
It will be the Liberal government’s second budget since the 2015 election.
Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland city councils have recently voted to get on board with intermunicipal transit.
The councils endorsed in principle the creation of a consolidated system — a partnership between the three communities and Niagara Region. The issue will now go before the Region.
The councils have requested the Region support a consolidated transit model and become formally involved in providing public transit through a triple majority process.
That process involves all 12 municipalities in Niagara voting on the issue and the majority of councils representing the majority of the population would have to support it.
Niagara Centre Liberal MP Vance Badawey said the government has already announced an $81-billion investment in transportation, including public transit.
“This goes along the lines of what Chris (Bittle) is talking about, with respect to not only existing transportation utilities, but also new ones,” he said.
“It’s just a case of myself and Chris making the case based on the strategy that is presented to us by the Region and the municipalities well enough to access the $81 billion.”
Badawey said he has been in dialogue with various ministers, including the finance minister, to “let them know that I’ll be knocking.”
Niagara Falls Conservative MP Rob Nicholson said he would like to see the government support inter-municipal transit in Niagara.
“Something like this would be very helpful,” he said.
“A number of years ago I was involved with getting $25 million (of federal money) for Wego (along with $25 million from the provincial government) — a transportation system moving people, particularly tourists, in our area. What you find very often is that certain projects that could help everybody in our area cannot be affordable for just one level of government.”
Bittle said “no one knows” what will be in the budget until it’s presented.
“It’s difficult to speculate because it is one of the closest-guarded secrets in Ottawa and really only the finance minister and the prime minister can speak with certainty as to what’s there.”
He said he expects the budget to focus heavily on helping the middle class “and those working hard” to join it. “That’s what we ran on and that’s what we’re going to be judged on when we go to the polls in 2019. I don’t have specifics, but based on what we’ve been hearing, I expect that that will be the focus of the budget.”
Badawey said he’s proposing the government establish a sustainable funding envelope similar to the gas tax “that would be in place for municipalities to access with respect to community improvement and growth plans.”
“Instead of being particular to one project, it’s particular to many projects that might be included in an overall community improvement growth plan.”
Nicholson said he wants to see a budget that helps families and seniors.
“I have as many seniors in the Niagara Falls riding as anybody does in Canada. Working families have challenges and anything that can be done to assist them … I always look for.”
Nicholson said he hopes the government will provide support for small businesses and industries of importance in Niagara, such as agriculture.
“In particular, the fruit industry and the wine industry to see what, if anything, will affect them, if there’s anything there to their benefit. I always like to see anything to do with the borders in Canada — what can be done in any way to assist with that.”
Nicholson said he hopes the government doesn’t continue to run deficits that will “be costing us for generations to come.”
“They inherited a balanced budget and they said it was going to be a $10-billion deficit their first time, but it was considerably more than that. I’d like to see what the bottom line is going to be because you can’t just keep borrowing money that some day people will pay a price for.”
Niagara West–Glanbrook Conservative MP Dean Allison said he hopes the budget doesn’t include “additional taxation or service fees.”
“I know that the Liberals talk about the richest one per cent — we’re going to tax them — but I think in reality when you start looking at service fees and you start cutting tax credits … things that our government did, that doesn’t affect just the richest one per cent, that affects everybody.”