Liberals are tapping $ 2.75 billion in promised transit dollars for zero-emission buses

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Garth Frizzell, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, welcomed the funding as a way to speed up work in cities to replace diesel buses.

OTTAWA – Federal Liberals are putting aside some of the billions of dollars earmarked for short-term transit spending to help communities keep their bus fleets greener.

The hope is that the $ 2.75 billion in traditional grants will match the $ 1.5 billion an infrastructure finance agency is supposed to invest for the same purpose.

Infrastructure Secretary Catherine McKenna says the grant money will help cover the up-front costs of buying electric buses to replace the diesel-powered buses that rumble through Canadian roads.

She says federal funding helped cities buy 300 buses, and the government hopes the funding will help them add 5,000 zero-emission buses over the next five years.

However, she acknowledged there are additional costs, including charging points on transit routes and in existing depots.

Liberals hope cities will then turn to Canada Infrastructure Bank to fund the cost of the remaining work.

The bank’s chairman of the board, Ehren Cory, says the expected energy savings from not using diesel could be used to replace a low-interest loan from his agency, for example.

“It’s pretty much a new investment from scratch, and the savings will pay for a lot of it, but not all,” he said on videolink.

“Therefore, by combining a government grant, a subsidy, combined with a savings loan, we can get the most out of ourselves, make big changes quickly, with minimal impact on taxpayers.”

Garth Frizzell, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, welcomed the funding as a way to speed up work in cities to replace diesel buses.

“We are already getting more electric vehicles onto our roads, and this massive funding to electrify transportation systems across the country will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost the local economy and help meet Canada’s climate goals,” he said in a statement.

McKenna made the same connections several times during an event Thursday in Ottawa, where she was standing near the city’s Mayor Jim Watson, which Cory and Industry Secretary François-Philippe Champagne were video-conferencing with Cory and Industry Secretary François-Philippe Champagne.

Joanna Kyriazis, Senior Policy Adviser at Clean Energy Canada, stated that the investments could help the country’s six electric bus manufacturers compete internationally.

“As Canada develops its battery supply chain – from raw metal and mineral resources to our leading battery recycling companies in North America – we need to build the market for electric vehicles and their batteries at home,” she said in a statement.

Liberals are pledging billions in permanent transit funding as part of a post-pandemic recovery, including $ 3 billion annually in a transit fund starting in five years.

Cities have seen the number of passengers in transit plummet due to the pandemic as some of the workforce works remotely. The demand for single-family homes far outside the city centers suggests that some workers expect teleworking to become a more regular part of their working lives after the pandemic.

McKenna said her thinking about public transportation hadn’t changed with that shift, and said her only thought was that Canada needed more and better systems. It is up to cities and transport companies to set routes and priorities, she said.

“The reality is that many of our key employees have no choice but to take public transport. And I think we realized how important it is for people to get around safely, ”said McKenna.

Conservative infrastructure critic Andrew Scheer questioned whether the Liberals could keep the promise, adding that the infrastructure bank had not completed a project.

“The Trudeau Liberals keep announcing the same money, but they can’t build anything,” he said in a statement.

“You can’t take a liberal new application to work. Electric or not, they just can’t get the job done.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 4, 2021.

Jordan Press, the Canadian press

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