To the editor,
How do people in Nova Scotia get around if they do not drive?
On election day candidates will arrange drives to the polls, but what about the days and months afterward? We have been working for years with government departments, organizations, and individuals to answer these questions. In 2012 more than 1,300 Nova Scotians contributed their thoughts through our on-line surveys, individual interviews and community focus groups. Our resulting discussion document, Transit in Communities: Making the Connection showed how transportation options offered short and long-term economic, financial, and social benefits to individuals and communities. Citizens in areas without transit services, however, reported lost income, isolation, and difficulty accessing essential services such as health appointments or employment. We also determined that in Nova Scotia, successful community transit requires a four-way partnership between the three levels of government and the community being served, including service providers, users and supporters.
In sharing this document with Premier Darrell Dexter and the three provincial caucuses, we asked for:
- A provincial vision and strategic plan for comprehensive community transit support and expansion in Nova Scotia.
- An analysis of government spending on transportation to support clients who require transportation.
- A re-examination of the current policy governing the Federal Gas Tax funding directed to municipalities.
- A Community Transit Secretariat to coordinate these efforts
In the ensuing months, the provincial government launched its Sustainable Transportation Strategy, which included community transit as an ingredient and community engagement as a pillar. Provincial funding to community transit through its Community Transportation Assistance Program (CTAP) and Accessible Transportation Assistance Program (ATAP) has been increased, and a one-year transitional grant was provided to CT-NS through the Sustainable Transportation Strategy to develop a long-term operational plan. We take these as signs that our message is accurate and understood.
Now with an election ahead, we compare our asks with the platforms of the three major parties. Here is what we have found:
NDP Platform: No mention is made specifically of community transit or the general movement of people. Some related items:
Launch of Senior Navigators program to “help seniors access the services they are entitled to.” This program could put seniors in touch with available transportation options, or could highlight the need in communities with few or no options. Waiving of ambulance fees for low-income and seniors with mobility issues. This is listed as an accomplishment under Better Care Sooner and may provide financial relief to the mentioned groups, but what of the cost to the taxpayer and the danger to individuals (especially those in rural communities) of engaging emergency vehicles in non-emergency transport? A promise to remove HST from family essentials like car seats and strollers. This is helpful to families that drive or own a car, or live within walking distance of essential and beneficial destinations. What of the families that cannot rely on driving or walking for transportation?
Liberal Platform: specifically lists Public Transit – Linking Communities, under which it states “Nova Scotians need reliability and access when it comes to public transit.” Its three-year platform list promises to:
work with government and industry to address the issue invest $2 million in capital region public transit, and $1 million in public and community-based transit outside the capital region. Under Creating a Fair and Independent Nova Scotia, the platform promises $500,000 in new money to the Community Transportation Assistance Program, which currently funds on-demand door-to-door services in 14 rural communities.
PC Platform: states it will “Make it easier to move people and goods,” including a call for a five-year Transportation Strategy “that would clarify and strengthen the provincial government’s role in supporting all modes of transportation infrastructure.”
It is interesting how the platform of the incumbent government is the most vague about community transportation options, while those pursuing the role of reigning party cite it specifically. This either means good news for those in need of transportation options in this province, or yet another round of political football that leaves people with options that are dangerous, unaffordable, or unhealthy – skipping medical tests, for example, or passing on a job that cannot support both life and a car. Candidates speaking on behalf of these platforms should clarify their parties’ positions, and we as voters should ask them to.
Also, ask candidates to be specific about how their parties will support community transportation options. Community transit needs strong leadership, collaborative vision and support, and dedicated operational funds to be sustainable. Should they be elected, what concrete actions and financial commitments will the political parties deliver to make their transportation promises a reality?
This election, look past the car in your driveway to the future of your own life and your community. How will you get there, how will anyone get to you, if you or they don’t drive? Then consider the party platforms and how seriously they take the issue of transportation. Your candidates will arrange for a drive to the poll. What will they do for you and your community the day after the election?
Operations Supervisor, CHAD Transit
Treasurer, Community Transit Nova Scotia
Vice President, Rural Transportation Association
Almon Chisholm, Chair
Community Transit-Nova Scotia