Every so often, the question of subsidies shows up in comment threads here. My usual explanation is “well, it depends, and it’s complicated”.
For those of you who want to see just how complicated, you can look at the TTC’s draft financial statements for 2008. Scroll down to Notes 12 and 13 which detail where the operating subsidies come from and go to, and in much more excruciating detail, how the capital subsidies work.
This is a testimonial to the madness of project-based, partisan announcements. Every government has to come up with its own program. Even if an old one worked, we need a new one clothed in new party colours. All of this takes a lot of accounting just to keep track that monies received are spent on only those projects for which they were announced. Perish the thought that a Tory Blue dollar might accidently wind up paying for a Liberal Red bus, or that money intended for “Green” programs simply pays for keeping the transit system going.
We hear a lot from governments about getting out of the way of private business, of simplifying regulations and reporting because this is a huge burden on the private sector. Canada’s competitiveness depends on the simplest and shortest rules possible. The concept has not yet reached public sector regulation where the intent seems to be to strangle any ability to use funding productively and quickly.