Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday April 21, 2015
Federal budget expected to highlight transit funding
Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s pre-election juggling act takes centre stage on Tuesday with a budget highlighted by billions of dollars in new spending and tax breaks for families, business and public transit in Toronto and other big cities.
Despite its being squeezed financially, Oliver is expected to commit Ottawa to new spending on transit in the country’s largest metropolitan areas. The promise, which will probably see the federal government gradually earmark up to an extra $1 billion a year for infrastructure, is seen as popular among key voting groups around Toronto and Vancouver with elections six months away.
Oliver has been under pressure to ante up more federal cash to address the deterioration in the country’s vital infrastructure and spur improvements in roads, bridges and transit. Mayors, some premiers and federal opposition parties have complained that current federal outlays for infrastructure are inadequate.
For Toronto alone, Mayor John Tory (open John Tory’s policard) has been pressing his Conservative allies in Ottawa to come through with $2.7 billion over eight years to pay a third of the cost of his SmartTrack rail project. For the country as a whole, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been urging Ottawa to add an extra $1 billion annually to its support for public transit to ease commuter woes and spark economic expansion.
The budget, Oliver’s first, will also feature measures meant to shore up the sputtering economy by helping manufacturers. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already announced a hiring incentive for small businesses. (Continued: Toronto Star)