A National Transit Strategy?

The Toronto Star reports that, despite bold promises from Prime Minister Harper, no money has flowed from Ottawa’s pledge to aid transit in the GTA.  Everything appears to be mired in writing the details of contracts between the federal government and the recipients of their largesse.

Alas, this continues a pattern seen in previous federal hand-outs where Ottawa wants a complex arrangement to ensure that money is spent only in a way it approves.

Ottawa just doesn’t get it:  a real national strategy needs to operate as a standing arrangement between governments with annual support flowing to provinces and cities.  Project-by-project funding adds a huge level of negotiations and legal wrangling to a vital public service. 

Imagine if every time Toronto wanted to fund a project it had to write a separate agreement with Queen’s Park.  Project costs would go through the roof on contract negotiation and management, and the public sector would rightly be accused of wasting money on bureaucracy.  Strange to see a “conservative” government entangled in this way.

If Ottawa really wants to be part of a transit strategy, it needs to decide on a general level of spending, set broad guidelines for the type of project that constitutes “transit” and then get out of the way.  Transit programs are delivered at the local level, and decisions about details and priorities belong there.  We have enough meddling from Queen’s Park without Ottawa adding another layer.