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Childcare expected to headline BC budget; Questions remain on transit, transportation spending

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

UBC prof wouldn't be surprised to see big projects like the Broadway subway pushed back or left off as budget priority

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s budget day in Victoria, and we’re expecting the BC NDP government to spend big on childcare.

But there are still questions about whether we’ll see any new big investments in transit and transportation.

UBC professor Patrick Condon says when he looks at the big commitments the NDP is making on other files, he wouldn’t be surprised to see big projects like the Broadway subway pushed back or left off as a priority in today’s budget because there likely isn’t enough cash to go ahead with everything Metro Vancouver mayors are pushing for.

“I think they’re going to be looking for a way to stretch this out,” says Condon. “The previous government balanced budgets, yes indeed, but they set new records for getting bond money for their various projects. So if you look out to the next 10, 20 years, there’s a very heavy burden of repayment on things that the province has mortgaged themselves for, notably the Port Mann Bridge as a well-known example. There’s a heavy burden of debt and I don’t think the province… would want to be adding another $3 billion, $4 billion to that very heavy burden.”

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Condon says the Broadway subway project is losing some of its biggest backers with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and a number of his Vision Vancouver councillors stepping aside later this year.

“I’m not sure who the constituency is that’s nattering constantly at the province to get [the subway] done,” says Condon. “The mayor, who has been its strongest advocate, has announced he’s not running again. He would like to see it in place, but he’s only got a few more months. So too is the majority of his Vision council, and the other members of council have expressed some skepticism in the past about the choice of a very expensive system for Broadway, and some of the other consequences of it — which may include excessive new high-rise buildings along the line, which would be necessary to pay for the local share. So I think support for the Broadway subway — at least within the City of Vancouver — is quite divided, and with… the decline and fall of the Vision party, I think the strongest voices that have been pushing for it have been pushed aside.”

Condon is generally skeptical about the timeline of the 10-year mayors’ plan, saying that given previous delays it’s already more like a 15-year plan.

But he doesn’t expect the NDP to ignore this file altogether. He says the Surrey LRT, for example, might be seen as a project with more urgency for that growing city.