'Four billion is a lot of money': MP after cities call COVID-19 funds 'a promising start'
LONDON, ONT. -- The federal government has announced a multi-billion dollar agreement with the province’s to assist municipalities facing budget deficits caused by the pandemic.
But it is not expected to fully cover the growing shortfall at London city hall.
London Transit Commission Chair Phil Squire warns that each day buses operate without collecting fares, the financial hole grows deeper.
"Now it’s a question of finding out how much money London Transit will be getting," says LTC Chair Phil Squire.
London Transit has already undertaken a number of belt-tightening service reductions and redirected funds to offset part of the deficit. The 2020 deficit, however, will still top $2.35 million by the end of July.
London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos confirms the funding announced by the Prime Minister on Thursday will be released this fiscal year.
"We as a federal government are putting $1.8 billion forward, the provinces are expected to do the same. Municipalities can put that total pot of money towards transit needs," explains Fragiskatos.
"We’re meeting in two weeks. It would be real nice to know how much money we were going to get from the federal government," says Squire. "Then we can let everybody know what we are going to do so the losses don’t fall back on local taxpayers."
Fragiskatos adds, an additional $2 billion from the federal government will be matched by the provinces for pandemic-related operating costs incurred by municipalities.
But the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been lobbying for a $10 billion bailout for cities and transit systems across the country.
In a media release the organization calls the funding “a promising start”, suggesting more will be necessary.
"Four billion dollars. Look, that’s a lot of money. I understand the FCM’s position. But this is a major step forward," Fragiskatos responds. "I don’t know what will happen in the future. We will continue to work with municipalities."
City council will get another update regarding its budget deficit in September.
Squire concedes, "I would be surprised if we get our entire deficit at the city covered. Same as I don’t expect the entire deficit at transit to be covered."