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NDP would invest $4 billion in transit

Any attempts Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan might have been making to distance himself from the NDP went out the window on Monday as he joined a press conference aimed at selling the New Democrats' new transit plan.

“I’m very excited to hear this announcement,” Corrigan said outside the Lougheed SkyTrain station. “Someone is paying attention to what cities have been asking for: real improvement in the funding for public transportation.”

The NDP plan calls for more than $4 billion over four years, funded through a combination of the revenue generated by a cap and trade system and a partial reallocation of the fuel excise tax. Metro Vancouver would receive $206 million – enough for 62 new SkyTrain cars or 360 hybrid buses – in the unlikely event the NDP were to form government.

Corrigan, whose Burnaby Civic Association requires prospective members to hold B.C. NDP memberships, accused the federal government of skimping on public transport funding, called the Green Party’s support for the carbon tax in its present form “unconscionable” and criticized the Liberal habit of giving the provinces money to use at their own discretion.

“We need funds to come in that are designated for the purposes that municipalities requested and public transportation is highest on our list,” he said, before blasting Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion for his support of the Gateway Program.

In a written statement responding to NDP barbs, the Conservatives point to the transit pass tax credit, the GST cut and the Building Canada program as public transit accomplishments. Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a speech earlier this year that his government was spending over $1 billion annually in the sector.

The federal Liberals have pledged “at least $8 billion” for a 10-year national transit strategy to enable Canadian cities to expand and green their transit systems. But only $1.9 billion of that total would materialize in the first four years.

The Greens promise to double current public transport funding. They would make transit passes tax deductible or, for those on income assistance, free. And they would cancel all federal funding for the Gateway Program or any other highway and bridge expansions they believed were promoting urban sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions.

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