Most politicians want to be around when governments announce they’re dropping dollars, but Maple Ridge’s mayor stayed away from Thursday’s announcement of $460 million in federal money for transit.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed up at the SkyTrain centre in Burnaby, along with Premier Christy Clark.
But Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read skipped the meeting because of the impasse that remains between the Mayor’s Council and the province over long-term transit funding.
The Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation put forward a slate of transit funding options to the province earlier this spring, but has yet to receive a response.
“To show that kind of commitment and then get no response, and then have the province in a press conference, as though something’s moved, when really nothing’s moved – it’s insulting. It really is insulting,” Read said.
She still has concerns about some aspects of the mayors’ funding proposals. One worry is that if mobility pricing comes in, Maple Ridge commuters could pay more than others because of the distances they drive.
Trudeau announced Thursday that Ottawa is providing $370 million from its new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund for the first phase of TransLink’s 10-year transportation plan.
The province is contributing $308 million provincewide, while Metro Vancouver cities are supposed to make up the balance, for a total of $900 million in transit spending in the region.
Some of that money will go into the West Coast Express commuter rail that connects Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to Vancouver. But just how West Coast Express service will be improved is unclear.
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton said the money will go to five new train cars and a locomotive.
According to Read, other mayors said they’d also boycott the announcement, although she wasn’t sure who.
With the money announced, the Mayor’s Council could be made to look like it’s stalling progress by waiting for a funding agreement, Read said.
Mayors last month pressed the province to agree to either a new funding source, such as a vehicle levy, or dedicate $50 million a year from an existing one, such as the carbon tax. They also agreed to raising the TransLink levy on property taxes.
“So there’s no agreement in place [with the province] from the mayors’ position. We haven’t moved. So that makes it extremely difficult,” Read said.
Spending announcement such as those made Thursday make it seem like an agreement has been reached.
“It raises public expectations,” Read added. “This whole thing essentially has been negotiated in the press.”
Dalton said the mayors themselves don’t all agree on funding measures.
The federal money will allow immediate purchase of more SkyTrain cars for the Expo, Millennium and Canada Lines, a new SeaBus, upgrades to SkyTrain lines and design and planning for rapid transit south of the Fraser River and for extending SkyTrain along Broadway.