featured Poverty

Calgary to offer a $5 monthly transit pass for its poorest residents. What about Halifax?

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The City of Calgary is offering huge discounts on transit passes for residents who live in poverty.

People who make $12,000 or less per year will pay only $5.15 per month. The price increases along a sliding scale as people earn more. Calgary residents pay full price once their income exceeds the poverty line.

“That’s huge. They can now find jobs. They can go to their appointments,” the Calgary Herald quotes formerly homeless Calgarian Nigel Kirk as telling Calgary Council.

missed-busHalifax is also considering a transit pass discount. However, a pilot project has not yet been able to sign up the targeted 500 participants.

Erica Butler, writing for the Halifax Examiner, rightly suggests that the rules to qualify for the discount are unreasonable and that the required paperwork is way too complex.

Others, I among them, have argued that the discount is insufficient for many low income earners. The discount Halifax offers on a monthly transit pass is 50 percent off the $78 normal price.

People who forego their medication so they can buy food for their kids don’t have $39 kicking around.

It should be noted that while Halifax is doing this on its own, the Calgary approach received support from the Alberta provincial government.

The City of Calgary offers the discounts with the help of the Province of Alberta, which kicks in $13.5 million over the next three years.

After all, easing transportation issues for poor people should not be just the city’s responsibility.  

In the background, the feds too play a role in public transportation. The bad news there is that although the Trudeau Liberals are spending more, Nova Scotia does not stand to gain quite as much.  

Richard Starr explains in the Nova Scotia Observer that under an earlier formula Nova Scotia would have received $92 million in federal public transit supports this year. But that formula was changed, and we will now receive a mere $32 million.

So if you like the idea of a $5 transit pass for Haligonians living in deep poverty, you will need to have a serious chat not just with your city councillor, but also with your MLA and your MP.