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Alberta government reverses planned cut to aid funding for low-income transit riders


The Alberta government is reversing its plan to axe a subsidy program that helps low-income people pay for transit passes.

Social Services Minister Jason Nixon said the mayors of Edmonton and Calgary have made it clear the money is critical.

“The province does not want to see the low-income transit program in our two largest cities go anywhere,” Nixon told reporters Wednesday.

“We will make sure that we’re there to support (the passes) if that’s what’s needed.”

The total provincial subsidy for low-income transit programs for all municipalities is $16 million.

“We’ll have to look elsewhere within our budget to be able to (fund the passes and) meet our targets,” said Nixon.

The announcement came a day after Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and her Edmonton counterpart, Amarjeet Sohi, publicly criticized the province for axing the programs, which contribute $12 million to their cities.

Nixon stressed the transit pass program was a pilot project, and said he was unaware department officials had met with the two cities earlier this week to discuss it.

Gondek said she’s happy to see the money restored, adding that many Calgarians were shocked and concerned by news the program could be gone.

“The fact that (Nixon) stepped in so swiftly and rectified the situation is good,” said Gondek.

“Any decision, whether it’s made by an elected official or administration, to cut funding to people who are desperately in need of our help and supports is a bad decision.

“Better communication would be recommended all around.”

Sohi said the program is essential to Edmontonians, especially those who face daily challenges with affordability, mobility and isolation.

“I appreciate that Minister Nixon recognizes the negative impact that defunding this program will have and is reinstating funding at last year’s level,” Sohi said in a statement.

Calgary issued more than 119,000 low-income transit passes in the first three months of this year.

In Edmonton, 25,000 residents rely on the program every month to access transit, and demand in both cities is growing.

Lorne Dach, transportation critic for the Opposition NDP, said Albertans were rightfully outraged that the program was on the chopping block.

“To threaten the cancellation of this program during an affordability crisis shows how out of touch the Smith government is with Albertans,” Dach said in a statement.