By Ryan McGreal
Published April 03, 2009
The Federal Government committed last year to double the federal gas tax transfer to municipalities to $2 billion per year and make the transfer permanent so cities have stable and predictable funding.
Ontario's share doubles this year from $373 million to $746 million, of which Hamilton's share doubles from just under $16 million to just under $32 million.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry announced today that they will also accelerate the first $1 billion payment so that it arrives three months early.
This is part of a steady shift in Federal policy away from funding projects through the Building Canada Fund, which has drawn criticism for requiring matching provincial and municipal contributions and for a slow approvals process.
As Transport and Infrastructure Ministre John Baird explained in a press release, "We are working together with all levels of government to stimulate regional economies, cut red tape, get shovels in the ground sooner, and get Canadians back to work."
In January of this year, while Parliament was still on prorogue, the Big City Mayors' Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities petitioned the federal government to flow new infrastructure money through the gas tax. Instead, the January Federal budget emphasized tax cuts and credits and flowed money through the Building Canada Fund.
In March, responding to growing criticism of the slow pace of stimulus spending, the Federal Government announced a $3 billion slush fund to be doled out between April 1 and June 30, overseen by the Treasury Department.
While the provincial gas tax transfer must be spent on transit and increases or decreases based on ridership growth (Hamilton's provincial gas tax transfer has been falling due to weak ridership growth), the federal gas tax transfer comes with no strings attached. Until now, Hamilton has used the federal transfer on road infrastructure and to offset pressure to raise transit levies.
Also today, Minister Baird announced $213 million for GO Transit through the Building Canada Fund, on top of the $249 million in joint federal/provincial funding already committed earlier this year.
The funds will cover: a Steetsville bus storage facility; improvements to Exhibition Station, Clarkson Station, Burlington Station, Oriole Rail Station; a training fueling facility at Aldershot Station; a bus maintenance facility in Ajax; a bus terminal at Richmond Hill Centre; a second GO station in downtown Barrie; bridge improvements over Credit River, the Young Street Bridge in Aurora and other locations; a bus storage facility in Aberfoyle; track maintenance and upgrades across the network; refurbishment of 45 existing locomotives; 30 new bi-level passenger coaches; several platform snowmelt systems; 56 new bicycle shelters in addition to the 46 already built; integrated GPS systems for all GO buses; and 6,800 new parking spaces at 12 GO Stations.
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