It’s not often Kellie Leitch and transit funding come up in the same sentence — or in this case the same tweet — but we live in exceptional times.
Leitch of course in her zeal to lead the Conservative Party of Canada has drawn no small amount of notoriety. She’s pledged to vet immigrants, even though they are already quite heavily scrutinized, and subject them to a Canadian values test — whatever that means.
Last week, Leitch promised via Twitter to withhold transit funding from any locale designated as a “sanctuary city” if she becomes PM. Sanctuary cities in the U.S. example provide a safe haven for undocumented immigrants. Toronto designated itself as a sanctuary city in 2013 but whether it actually is a refuge for illegals is a matter of debate.
Be that as it may, Leitch seems quite content to take a page from her chief inspiration Donald Trump and use social media like a cudgel (and like Trump subject herself to much ridicule in the process). If she thinks Toronto will cower under the threat of no funding, she’s due for disappointment.
Let’s put aside the fact Leitch is threatening to cripple transit in Canada’s financial capital during a time when economic recovery remains modest at best. The reality is historically Canada hasn’t considered it a priority to fund transit on a scale comparable to other G8 countries like France and Great Britain, both of which have national funding strategies. Funding remains in many cases politically-driven, limited to a project-by-project basis. Rarely is the city given a blank cheque for its transit needs; in most cases it must hope Ottawa finds the project enticing enough to (partially) pay for.
That’s changing slowly with the federal Liberals splashing some cash. By no means is it assured the money will continue to flow. In fact, it’s likely Justin Trudeau, citing fiscal constraints, turns off the financial taps well before the end of his first term.
Leitch’s pledge, however mean-spirited, is an empty threat. There just isn’t enough money for transit coming from the feds to feel the pain of possibly losing it.