News / Vancouver

Mayors target carbon tax revenue to fund transit

TransLink mayors’ council says carbon tax collected from transportation-related emissions in Metro Vancouver is enough to cover its funding shortfall.

A SkyTrain pulls into Renfrew Station on the Millennium Line on Feb. 7, 2017.

Jeff Hodson/Metro / Metro Web Upload

A SkyTrain pulls into Renfrew Station on the Millennium Line on Feb. 7, 2017.

Metro Vancouver’s mayors have targeted revenues from British Columbia’s carbon tax to solve its transit funding woes.

In its submission this week to the province’s 2018 budget standing committee, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation says the additional revenue collected from the planned increases to the tax – and only those from transportation-related emissions within the region itself – is more than enough to cover the estimated $60- to $80-million annual shortfall for its share of the 10-year transit plan.

“The carbon tax has always been the preferred option,” New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote told Metro. “Essentially, if the requests outlined in our pre-budget submission are agreed to by the provincial government, we’re going to be able to move forward with phase two [of the plan] … the Broadway subway line and light rail south of the Fraser and a whole host of other bus service and investments in public transit across the region. That $60- to $80-million annual funding gap is the last remaining piece to get Phase 2 moving forward.”

The province plans to increase the carbon tax by $20 per tonne, in $5 annual increments, over the next four years.

New revenue generated by the increases from Metro Vancouver’s transportation sector alone (which accounts for 11 per cent of the province’s total greenhouse gas emissions) would bring in approximately $90 million a year, TransLink vice president of planning and policy Geoff Cross, told the council Thursday.

“I think it’s important to note that the funding request coming from the mayors’ council is a portion of the carbon tax that is actually generated right here in Metro Vancouver and is actually generated by the transportation sector,” said the council’s executive director, Mike Buda. “The request we’re making isn’t for [revenues] from other parts of the province.”

While details are slim, the NDP government has committed to breaking away from the B.C. Liberal’s revenue neutral requirement for the carbon tax.

The party has promised to take the additional revenues from the planned increase and use the money to expand rebate cheques for families and for “investments in climate change solutions.”

Cote says negotiations with the province are ongoing.

“It is our hope that in early 2018 we’d be at the point to make a public announcement and commitment on that agreement,” he said.

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