Local transit leaders dismayed as Ford government nixes promised funding hike


An Ontario government budget decision to quash a promised increase in gas tax revenue given to municipalities may slow transit growth, says London’s transit boss.

But Kelly Paleczny, general manager of the London Transit Commission, said losing the increase – which had been promised by the previous Liberal government – didn’t come as a total shock due to Premier Doug Ford’s cost-cutting agenda.

“Would I say it wasn’t a huge surprise that they decided not to proceed with the increase in the gas tax? I think that would be fair to say,” she said. “Certainly from London Transit’s perspective – we are disappointed.”

But she said London Transit had not, unlike some other transit systems, included it in their upcoming budgets.

“In our case we’re at the tail end of a multi-year budget cycle,” Paleczny said. “We didn’t approve budgets that assumed the gas tax increase was coming.”

But it could affect London Transit’s future improvements such as more frequent service on busy routes, service to new areas and earlier service on Sundays, as well as improved levels of service on weekends and evenings, she said.

“What it has the potential to do is cut the rate of growth going forward – that’s from London’s perspective. There are other systems out there who had assumed that money was coming,” she said.

The president of Amalgamated Transit Union Canada described the news that the promised increase in gas tax revenue from two cents to four cents a litre would not happen as a “grave threat” to transit operations. He said many cities had planned to hire more bus operators or commit that money to keeping buses in good repair.

“Any municipality that was promised an increase in gas tax revenue will be reeling from . . . the broken promise in the budget,” union president John Di Nino said in a statement.

Local transit union leader Andre Fournier called on Ontario transportation minister MPP Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) for answers.

“Promising investment in transit before an election and then breaking that commitment is no way to run a ministry or a business,” he said.

Yurek was not immediately available for comment.

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