I just got off the phone with Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
He was in Ottawa where he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Scoop: The PM promised to pay for the Broadway subway extension from Arbutus to the University of B.C. and provide enough funding to solve homelessness in Vancouver!
Trudeau also promised to pay for this year’s Stanley Cup parade downtown!
I’m kidding, of course.
Apologies for the sarcasm and I shouldn’t be making light of serious housing and transportation issues facing this city. The hockey reference was just to rile up the Oilers fan in the next cubicle.
But this is the kind of nonsense I come up with when I’ve got no specifics to report on the mayor’s visit to Ottawa Sunday and Monday. No specifics on the subway extension to UBC, no specifics on much-needed affordable housing projects.
That’s, unfortunately, how these things go—mayor goes to Ottawa, mayor meets with PM and ministers, mayor holds 15-minute telephone newser for Vancouver reporters, mayor provides no specifics, conference call ends, reporters stare at blank screens.
I wasn’t expecting anything else, frankly.
But I always try to participate in any and all newsers involving the mayor of the day after he makes a trip to Ottawa. As memory serves, I did this with Gregor, Sam and Larry and heard pretty much what you would expect of a mayor who does not want to share specifics, or maybe has none to share.
That’s, after all, what “major announcement” pomp and circumstance news conferences are for. And I got the sense from the short time on the phone with the mayor that we can expect Trudeau and some of his ministers to be in town sometime this year to show us the money.
It’s an election year, folks, and Trudeau made reference to that in a morning newser he did Monday to launch his talks with Stewart and other mayors attending the Big City Mayors’ Caucus meeting in Ottawa.
“From housing to transit to green infrastructure, we have a lot of great investments, some that have been launched already, some that are poised to be announced,” he said in the broadcast I watched on the Cable Public Affairs Channel. “I’m looking forward to yet again another great conversation with you all, and a year ahead of lots of positive announcements by your side.”
Ottawa, of course, is where the big money is—your big money, actually.
For example, did you know the feds put up $888 million towards the subway getting built from the VCC-Clark SkyTrain station all the way out to Arbutus Street?
Scheduled completion is 2025.
Great, you say, but what’s it going to cost to extend the subway from Arbutus to UBC?
Two recent reports—one that went before the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation last week, and one to go before Vancouver city council this week—estimate the cost of the recommended SkyTrain technology to be way north of $3 billion.
So will the feds commit to paying for any it? Did Trudeau make any commitments?
“Specifically from the prime minister—no,” the mayor said. “This is just to put things on his radar. But I feel confident that once we have the business case developed, then the federal government will be very open to our request for funding.”
But, as the mayor explained, Vancouver city council has to first approve SkyTrain as the preferred technology on the route. Then the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation will vote on the technology and potentially unlock $3 million to begin developing a business case for the extension.
Negotiations with landowners, specifically with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations over a possible route near or through the Jericho Lands, will be part of the exercise. Then the work of collecting the money from the feds and the provincial governments really begins.
“We don’t really have a specific ask yet because we have to wait for the business case to be developed,” Stewart said. “So my goal here was to kind of seed the ground for those discussions, and I did feel that the reception was very positive.”
What about specifics around affordable housing investments for Vancouver?
“There’s nothing I want to talk about right at the moment, but I think in the coming weeks we would have something to discuss.”
Until then, go Canucks go!