More connected communities, flexible funding and lower greenhouse gas emissions – these are some of the topics that arise in a new report outlining what Canadians and sector experts are hoping to see as the government moves closer to fulfilling its promise to deliver permanent funding for public transit across the country.
In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that the federal government would invest $14.9 billion in public transit projects over the following eight years, including permanent funding of $3 billion per year for Canadian communities starting in 2026-27.
“When we invest in public transit infrastructure, we are supporting good middle-class jobs, creating better commutes, fighting climate change, and helping make life easier and more affordable for Canadians,” Trudeau said in a press release at the time. “We will continue to do what it takes to ensure our economic recovery from COVID-19 and build back a more resilient country for everyone.”
The government put out an engagement paper outlining its vision for the overarching project in July 2022, and opened it up to comment from the general public, as well as provinces, municipalities, Indigenous groups, transit agencies and other experts.
This new report is the result of that consultation process and aims to provide a guide for designing the implementation of permanent public transit funding that will launch in 2026-27.
The report was compiled following 75 engagement sessions, 71 written submissions, 391 questionnaire responses and 127 emails. Those behind it say they also had more than 40,000 social media impressions related to the transit project.
“The thoughtful submissions received from Canadians during this consultation process will help ensure permanent public transit funding meets the needs of communities – large and small,” Dominic LeBlanc, minister of intergovernmental affairs, infrastructure and communities, said in a press release Tuesday. “I look forward to working with our partners to bring this program to life.”
COVID-19 was a huge blow to the sector, as many stopped using public transit at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Individuals from the public transit sector indicated that their organizations are still recovering from ridership and revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report stated.
However, gains in ridership are being made. According to the report, ridership has reached 75.5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels as of April, a big jump from the pandemic low of 16 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Canadians are hoping that investing in public transit will mean lower greenhouse gas emissions and more equity that might be able to address social issues such as housing and unemployment.
The report is structured around five main themes that emerged during the consultation process, the first being a desire for stable and predictable funding that provides some flexibility for transit organizations.
It’s not enough to just promise that there will be funding. There needs to be a clear plan for when funding is to arrive and how it will be applied, so that projects don’t wait in limbo, according to the report.
“Participants indicated that it is critical to establish consistent and transparent transit funding commitments from all governments and transit partners to address planning, budgetary, and other implementation challenges that have been magnified by supply-chain issues and global inflation,” the report stated.
Local governments said in the consultation process that they would like to have the ability to shift some funding to existing local infrastructure projects, such as the Canada Community-Building Fund.
Calling for flexibility in funding means transit organizations want to be able to decide where funding is applied in order to address costs non-experts won’t have thought of, instead of all of the funding being locked to specific areas already decided by the federal government.
“Many systems face the challenge of maintaining state of good repair for fleets, rail, and other supporting infrastructure. Funds should be allocated in a manner to ensure flexibility of use, as set out by transit systems, to ensure state of good repair for existing infrastructure or for capital expansion,” the Canadian Urban Transit Association stated in the report.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities also stated in the report that funding should apply to all associated costs of a project, including “early planning and design, rehabilitation and renewal of existing assets, system expansion, the shift to zero-emissions transit, and active transportation.”
SOLUTIONS APPROPRIATE FOR DIFFERENT REGIONS
The second issue that Canadians identified in the consultation process was the need for transit funding to be properly applied for the needs of different regions around the country.
“One size does not fit all. Public transit is essential for large urban areas, small urban areas (like Fredericton or Moncton), and in rural areas; however, the challenges and needs to serve these areas are different,” the government of New Brunswick stated in the report.
The people best positioned to identify the needs of specific regions are those who live and operate in the regions themselves. According to the report, Canadians want to see governments working together with municipalities and owners and operators of infrastructure in affected regions to design the transit solutions that would best help them.
“Government must recognize that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to the permanent funding for public transit. Government must be adapted to the needs to local communities,” the Canadian Chamber of Commerce stated in the report.
Those who participated in the consultation highlighted that urban centres are dealing with housing affordability and the pressures of cities growing, while smaller, more remote rural regions and many Indigenous communities are often dealing with a lack of accessible transit options to get community members to work, school and appointments.
ADDRESSING SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
The project of funding public transit across Canada needs to take into account the social and environmental challenges that communities are dealing with, according to the report.
“Across the country, we heard that there is a pressing need for transit investments to help address congestion, housing affordability, social inclusion, and climate change in addition to advancing key transit goals, such as increasing the modal share of transit ridership,” the report stated.
Effective public transit needs to provide more affordable access to housing and employment, and should ensure that underserved communities are not overlooked in the mapping out of new transit lines. As the climate crisis continues, Canadians are hoping more funding for public transit will also help to lower emissions, the report found.
“The permanent public transit fund is a historic opportunity to decarbonize the transport sector, while delivering a more inclusive economy and fostering greater social equity,” Environmental Defence Canada stated in the report.
When different levels of government fail to communicate, effective public transit is near impossible to achieve, the report stated, and better communication and collaboration is something that needs to be a priority in order to ensure the plan to provide permanent funding for public transit starting in 2026-27 is a success.
A lack of communication can lead to unplanned delays such as developers needing to redraw the plans for a bus line because it was created without proper knowledge of the housing density or services in the area.
MORE TRANSPARENT DECISION-MAKING
The final thing that Canadians emphasized during the consultation process was the need for decision-making to be more transparent and evidence-based.
It’s important to ensure that Canadians are aware of the when and why of transit developments in their region, and to be able to access this data easily, the report stated.
The report noted that based on all of the recommendations garnered in the consultation process, those behind it will be aiming to provide a base of predictable funding for smaller jobs like routine mending, and then support long-term transit plans with funding agreements that have taken housing and greenhouse gas emissions reductions into account.
“These approaches will be complemented by the Canada Community-Building Fund, approximately a third of which is used for public transit,” the report stated. “This additional source of permanent funding provided to municipalities through provinces and territories is up for renewal in 2023/2024.”
Other specific steps the government will be taking in response to the consultations is creating an advisory body of experts “to undertake Canada’s first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), which will serve as a foundational tool to identify Canada’s infrastructure needs and priorities, and will undertake evidence-based long-term planning into 2050.”
“Permanent public transit funding will provide stable support for the capital investment needs of Canada’s public transit systems, while relying on our provincial and municipal partners, who control operational decisions, to identify and meet the needs of their communities,” the report stated.
'ET Canada' cancelled by Corus Entertainment, blames 'challenging' advertising market – CTV News
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Entertainment Tonight Canada to end after 18 seasons
Canadian media company Corus Entertainment has announced it is ending flagship entertainment program Entertainment Tonight (ET) Canada after 18 seasons.
“The costs of producing a daily entertainment newsmagazine show in a challenging advertising environment have led to this decision,” read a statement posted on the company’s website on Wednesday.
“We recognize the impact this decision has on the dedicated team who have worked on the show and we thank them for their meaningful contributions over the years.”
The show’s final episode will air on Oct. 6, with reruns airing in the same time slot on Global TV until Oct. 31, a Corus spokesperson told CBC News.
The cancellation won’t impact Corus’s obligation to produce Canadian content under the rules set out by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the spokesperson said.
ET Canada’s website and social media platforms will also be shut down. The spokesperson declined to comment on how many people had been laid off as a result, but said the program’s hosts were impacted.
The network said it has no plans for another entertainment news show.
An hour-long, magazine-style show that focused on entertainment, celebrity, film and TV news, ET Canada began airing in 2005 on Global TV, which is owned by Corus Entertainment.
The program has been hosted by Canadian media personality Cheryl Hickey since its launch, with regular appearances by entertainment reporters, including Sangita Patel — a co-host since 2022 — plus Carlos Bustamante, Keshia Chanté and Morgan Hoffman.
The cancellation leaves ETalk, CTV’s weeknight show, as Canada’s lone major entertainment news program.
Andrea Grau, founder and CEO of entertainment publicity firm Touchwood PR, said ET Canada offered a Canadian perspective that made it stand out in the U.S.-dominated entertainment landscape.
“There was this great Entertainment Tonight brand that was going on in the U.S. — we all watched. And the idea of a Canadian arm of it was very special because it could give a different slant,” she said.
ET Canada’s demise comes during a major shift in the industry, she said, as publicists struggle to find entertainment outlets that can shine a spotlight on emerging Canadian artists and projects.
“Even though we share a language with the U.S. and we share pop culture, we are still Canadian and we have a different perspective,” Grau said, noting that ET Canada’s hosts were a mainstay on the U.S. press circuit.
“You see those relationships that have been built over the years of having Sangita [Patel] standing on a red carpet interviewing someone, or Cheryl Hickey interviewing someone. They’re recognizable to [celebrities] after all of these years, too,” she said. “They’ve created such a strong brand.”
Canada just had its lowest number of births in 17 years. What’s behind it?
The number of babies born in Canada dropped to a 17-year-low last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a declining fertility rate, data shows.
A Statistics Canada report released Tuesday showed there were 351,679 births registered across the country in 2022, which was a five per cent decrease from the previous year. This was Canada’s sharpest drop recorded since 2005.
Before 2022, the lowest number of births recorded was in 2005, with 345,044 babies born nationwide.
While the number of births in all provinces and territories declined last year, Nova Scotia was the notable outlier with a 12.8 per cent increase in live births.
The biggest decrease was in Nunavut, with the number of births dropping 11.8 per cent compared with 2021.
Canada, like many other developed countries, has been seeing declining birth trends over the past several years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many people’s plans to have kids, said Kate Choi, an associate professor of sociology at Western University.
“Although the fertility decline was indeed part of a larger trend of fertility decreases that have been occurring in Canada, the magnitude of the decrease is larger than what we would have anticipated in the absence of COVID-19,” she told Global News in an interview.
The high cost of living has magnified the size of the drop in births, Choi said.
“It’s very expensive to have children and right now, when everything is expensive, it’s very hard for young adults to be able to have the type of lifestyle that allows them to have children, which is contributing to delayed and forgone fertility,” she added.
It’s a concerning trend for Canada, according to Choi, who said decreasing birth rates have the potential to exacerbate population aging issues.
Canada is considered a low-fertility country and its fertility rate has been declining over the past decade.
The latest Statistics Canada data from 2021 reported a fertility rate of 1.44 children per woman that year — marking a slight increase following a steady decline since 2009.
The fertility rate is an estimate of the average number of live births a female can be expected to have in her lifetime, according to StatCan.
Lifestyle changes and work decisions are contributing factors, with a shift toward smaller families, said Mark Rosenberg, an expert in geography and professor emeritus at Queen’s University.
“I think mainly the factors we should focus on are first and foremost women’s decisions around the labour force and delaying birth until they’re in their 30s,” he told Global News in an interview.
There is also an increasing number of younger people living in single-person households, Rosenberg added.
Despite the drop in births, Canada’s population has been growing at a “record-setting pace,” surpassing the milestone of 40 million people earlier this year, due to a focus on increasing immigration.
Meanwhile, the StatCan report Tuesday also showed a rise in the proportion of babies who were born with a low birth weight — less than 2,500 grams.
Seven per cent of all babies had a low birth weight in 2022 compared with 6.6 per cent the year before.
Babies with a low birth weight are at an increased risk of complications, such as inhibited growth and development and even death, according to StatCan.
“When we see higher rates of low birth weight babies or higher rates of babies that are born who are overweight, those are issues that we should be concerned about because they reflect on people’s health,” Rosenberg said.
— with files from Global News’ Katherine Ward
Canada's population added 1.15 million people since last year: StatsCan – CBC News
'ET Canada' cancelled by Corus Entertainment, blames 'challenging' advertising market – CTV News
Entertainment Tonight Canada to end after 18 seasons
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