It takes a long time for a federal government to make significant change to big infrastructure projects like public transit, from the planning and preparation stages to the actual construction, but with voters giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau another minority government on September 20, transit advocates are saying the Liberal government will soon have had enough time to demonstrate they have made some significant progress.
“You can’t immediately snap your fingers and build an entire infrastructure system, it takes a decade,” said Professor Shoshanna Saxe, Canada Research Chair of Sustainable Infrastructure, in an interview ahead of the election. “[An elected party] is never going to get all the way through [building an infrastructure system] in one mandate.
“All kinds of things make that hard,” Saxe added. “One, there’s a lot of incentives not to invest a huge amount of money in something that won’t be done in your mandate, because you want to do things that can deliver. Two, it’s rare that we get the same government for 10 years, so often there is a change of government and a change of priority.”
In their 2015 platform, the Liberal Party promised to massively increase funding in transit, saying that over the next decade they will invest $20 billion in new and existing infrastructure, and focus on lessening the impact that traffic congestion has on the environment and people’s livelihoods.
They could have had that full decade — or close to it — once the next election comes around, when those original promises, as well as the ones in the elections since, will continue to be examined.
“It’s not just cynicism. It takes time to do things, especially transit infrastructure,” Saxe said. “Most of it can’t be done in one election cycle, it takes consistent investment over a long period of time”.
Saxe listed a pair of things that can be done relatively quickly to improve public transit, including the implementation of bus rapid transit — by putting bus routes on existing highways — and an increase in active transit infrastructure like bike lanes and sidewalks.
In 2021, the Liberal Party did hint at wanting to do those things, promising in their official platform that they will continue to invest in existing infrastructure, and are committing to making transit greener.
They now face pressure to meet those promises, for the sake of getting votes in 2025, but more importantly to improve Canada’s transit systems wherever possible.