On a sunny winter morning in Halifax, MP Andy Fillmore stood outside Bike Again, a DIY bike co-op, and announced a dedicated $400 million fund to support active transportation infrastructure across the country. In addition to the funding announcement, Andy Fillmore announced that public engagement will begin on the National Active Transportation Strategy.
This is the first-ever federal fund dedicated to active transportation and it will be Canada’s first-ever National Active Transportation Strategy. We worked with the Ecology Action Centre’s Sustainable Transportation Action Team (STAT) Committee in the lead-up to the last federal election to develop 5 asks for candidates. Our top two asks were for a National Active Transportation Strategy and to develop a dedicated funding stream for active transportation infrastructure. It’s exciting to see our advocacy creating a real difference for not only residents of Halifax, but folks living all across Canada. These outcomes could not have been acheived without the hard work of stakeholder organizations, including the Ecology Action Centre, Walk N’ Roll Halifax, Bicycle Nova Scotia, Velo Canada Bikes, and countless individuals and organizations locally and around the country who are working hard to make their communities more accessible by walking, rolling, and cycling.
We are really grateful for the work that MP Andy Fillmore and the Honorable Catherine McKenna have put into developing these new programs to support active transportation in communities across the country.
How Will the Fund Work?
Details of how the funds will be distributed are not determined yet. We do know that since 2015, the federal government has invested more than $130 million in 126 active transportation projects across Canada. The $400 million funding announcement is meant to last for five years. That’s an increase of about $60 million per year going towards active transportation infrastructure projects over the next five years. This increase will make a great impact on municipalities across Canada that want to introduce new sidewalks, bike lanes, and multi-use pathways.
We would like to point out that leading up to the 2021 federal budget, Velo Canada Bikes recommended that the federal government invest $700 million per year in active transportation infrastructure. That’s much more than the $80 million per year they are planning for the next five years. Not to put a damper on today’s announcement, but there is still a way to go to reach adequate funding levels to support the rapid introduction of active transportation infrastructure all across Canada. You can learn more about Velo Canada Bikes recommendations for the 2021 federal budget on their website. As always, there is more work to be done, but today we have taken a big step in the right direction.
National Active Transportation Strategy Engagement
It was announced in March 2020 that the federal government intended to develop a National Active Transportation Strategy, but progress was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The March 12, 2021 announcement indicated that Minister Catherine McKenna and Parliamentary Secretary Andy Fillmore will begin stakeholder and public engagement for the strategy in the coming weeks, and the development of the strategy is now underway. The purpose of the National Active Transportation Strategy is to coordinate active transportation investments that reflect best practice planning, design, regulations, and standards across all levels of government, Indigenous communities, not-for-profits, and the private sector.
The Strategy will be informed by input from the public, provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities, businesses, and not-for-profit organizations. We look forward to working with MP Fillmore and Minister McKenna to develop a strategy that ensures that active transportation infrastructure is equitable and accessible, enabling mobility for residents of all ages, abilities, income levels, ethnicities, and backgrounds. We will share more information about how you can contribute to the engagement process when we have more details.
Federal Announcement Comes After Recent Provincial Announcements
The big news from the federal government is coming after some recent announcements from Nova Scotia’s provincial government. On February 23, 2021 the provincial government announced that the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will now be called the Department of Transportation and Active Transit, a move that comes with a new focus on active transportation infrastructure implementation for the provincial department. At the same time, the province announced a new rebate for e-bikes, with $500 being taken off of the purchase price for e-bikes purchased at a brick-and-mortar store based in Nova Scotia at the point of sale. You can learn more about the e-bike rebate on the EV Assist website.