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Mayors pitch transit to win dollars in Liberals' green-themed budget

Last Updated Feb 6, 2020 at 12:13 pm PDT

FILE - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart (CityNews Vancouver)

OTTAWA — The mayors of Canada’s biggest cities are asking the federal government to immediately fund initiatives to address climate change — and years down the road for transit projects — in hopes of securing dollars in this year’s budget.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who is meeting with the mayors Thursday afternoon, has billed the budget as one with an environmental focus.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, who chairs the big city mayors’ caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, says that’s why the mayors are prioritizing budget requests that fit that environmental lens.

He and other mayors say they have heard broad support for their budget priorities, which also reflect promises the Liberals made during the recent federal election campaign.

The mayors are asking for help to fund zero-emission transit fleets and a top-up to the depleted disaster mitigation and adaptation fund that helps municipalities deal with severe flooding, for example.

A disconnect in some provinces

“It seems from the mayors around the table, the big concern is, in a lot of provinces, is the lack of cooperation from provincial governments in terms of delivering on agreed funding streams,” Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says. “So the federal government’s made a whole bunch of money available, contingent on provincial cooperation.”

Stewart tells reporters it looks like that’s not happening in some provinces, however, he notes cooperation is not an issue in British Columbia.

“Where we have a good partnership and we have the provincial government putting a lot of funding into things like transit and housing, but it does seem to be a concern from a lot of other mayors,” he adds.

In Vancouver, Stewart says the city is in need of more “housing dollars.” Transit comes as another priority for his city, he adds.

In meetings with other architects of this year’s budget, the mayors say they have come away with a belief that the Liberals will follow through on a campaign promise to make transit funding permanent when current funding deals run out near the end of the decade.

-With files from Cormac Mac Sweeney