By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Over half a million dollars in funding for cycling projects in the City of Oshawa remains safe despite the provincial government eliminating the host program as part of chopping Ontario’s cap-and-trade program.
Under the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling program, a branch of the Green Ontario Fund, created from proceeds generated by the province’s previous cap-and-trade program, the City of Oshawa received $525,538 earlier this year for cycling projects in the city.
The grant was praised by local cycling advocates and as part of the deal, the city also promised to chip in an additional 20 per cent of the amount, adding approximately $105,000.
However, when the provincial program was axed, some cycling advocates, and members of city’s Active Transportation Advisory committee questioned whether those dollars would still flow to city coffers.
Never fear, the money is safe, says Councillor Dan Carter.
Previously, a selection of projects have been presented as possible uses for the funds, including enhancements of the trail connection between the Oshawa Creek and City Hall, along with developing connection trails near the Oshawa Executive Airport to extend to the area of UOIT and Durham College.
Moving forward, staff will be developing a ranked list of projects for council’s approval as part of the 2019 budget process.
While these funds remain safe, the elimination of the Green Ontario Fund has Carter worried about how the city will continue to fund vital cycling infrastructure projects, and other green transportation initiatives moving forward.
“It makes it very unpredictable and what we’re going to have to do is take that into consideration as we look at the investments in our trails and bike paths and everything else. It just means that there’s not the money that once was there at this particular time, what that means long-term I’m not really sure,” he says, noting that if funding isn’t there, it would need to come from the city’s base budget, which would greatly slow down the progress on these project.
As it stands, Carter says if bike paths and cycling amenities are things the citizens of Oshawa want, then council will need to find a way to make it happen.
“It comes down to this, if the bike paths and the trails and those things are important in regards to the livability and the quality of life that our residents are desiring, then the bottom line is we’re going to have to find ways of funding it locally,” he says. “Our local constituents are not going to accept, ‘oh, it’s the province’s responsibility.’ They don’t care. Local constituents don’t care, they want their services so we’re going to have to find a way of being able to do it.”
As for any future provincial assistance for these initiatives, Carter says there is a lot still up in the air in terms of Premier Doug Ford’s plans for battling climate change.
“We’re all kind of waiting, it seems like right at this particular time, we’re not really sure how strong of policies all of these are,” he says.
“The reality being is cap and trade and the greenhouse initiatives are going to be a big part of our society moving forward because it has to be, you can’t just ignore it. For a short period of time you can hold your breath and stomp your feet, but sooner or later with storms getting so severe, with weather that is changing so rapidly, the reality being is it’s something you can not ignore.”