Trudeau announces $79 million for efficient buses in Victoria

Environmental News Provincial

118 efficient, but not fully electric, buses to be added to BC Transit fleet

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the announcement. Photo by Kate Korte, Senior Staff Writer and Editor

Amid rows of buses, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s black car and security team stood out in BC Transit’s Gorge Road parking lot. Trudeau was in Victoria to announce that the federal government, provincial government, and municipal partners will contribute $79 million in joint funding to enhance the province’s public transit. 

“More and more students, workers, and families are choosing to hop on the bus,” said Trudeau. “In order to meet that demand, we need to invest in the future so we can grow the middle class and keep people moving.”

This funding will include approximately $31 million from the federal government, $31 million from the provincial government, and $16 million from municipalities.

The funding will allow for 118 new buses throughout the province, 10 of which will be electric. BC Transit previously had one electric bus in service, which joined the fleet for a trial period from July 2018 to September 2018. The new buses will either replace existing buses that are at the end of their life cycle, or provide additional buses along busier routes to ease congestion. 

Last year, B.C. Transit serviced 57 million riders in 130 communities across the province. 

The president and CEO of BC Transit, Erinn Pinkerton, said this funding will allow for  the purchase of buses with innovative technology and further pursue cleaner, greener sources of fuel. As an example of this effort, Pinkerton pointed to BC Transit’s recent move to buses fueled by compressed natural gas. 

Horgan joked that the $31 million investment from the federal government was an excellent anniversary gift, since today marks the two-year anniversary since Horgan’s NDP government was sworn in to power in B.C. 

“The federal government is a partner,” Horgan said. “Today, they are not tying resources to conditions but providing an opportunity for us to meet the needs of the people that use them.” 

Although Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has previously indicated that she believes Victoria would be an excellent trial area for an all-electric fleet — and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) has voted to work towards total electrification by 2030 — Trudeau’s promise doesn’t equate to that. B.C. Premier John Horgan said that 10 of the new buses province-wide will be electric, 26 will be compressed natural gas, and did not specify what the other 82 will run on. 

Juliet Watts, the UVSS Director of Campaigns and Community Relations and a student non-voting member of the VRTC, said the announcement was exciting as she believes it meets the priorities of the VRTC. When asked about the VRTC’s goal of an all-electric fleet by 2030, Watts said the commission has promised these new buses will be the last the city buys that are not fully electric. 

Both the Green Party and the NDP have promised to invest in greener public transit, if elected later this year. Specifically, the federal NDP have stated a goal to make all buses in Canada electric by 2030. 

With the federal election coming up in the fall, Trudeau fielded a question about the opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and support for Elizabeth May on Vancouver Island. The Prime Minister suggested that people in opposition to the pipeline may not understand the possible positive environmental impact from the pipeline’s profits. 

“To be blunt on the [Trans Mountain] Pipeline expansion … putting the profits from the TMX into that green transition will do a lot for the environment,” said Trudeau. “There will always be people on one side or another of a debate who speak very, very loudly. The conversations I’ve had with ordinary Canadians … including here in B.C., have always shown me that people get it, that we have to move forward.”

In response, Watts said she feels people locally and on campus do not actually believe the Trans Mountain expansion is beneficial to the environment. 

“Fossil fuels are never green,” Watts said. ”It’s quite hypocritical for the PM to try to spin this as a benefit to putting through the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.” 

After the announcement, Trudeau is attending a Liberal party campaign fundraiser tonight at the Delta hotel. Tickets for the event are $300, but for members of the Laurier Club who already donate $1,500 to the Liberal party annually, tickets are $100. Protesters against the Trans Mountain pipeline are anticipated to gather outside the event. 

This article previously stated that the bus Trudeau stood in front of to deliver this announcement was a zero-emissions bus from BC Transit’s fleet, which is incorrect. The bus pictured above runs on compressed natural gas, and there are no current electric buses in the Victoria BC Transit fleet. We regret this error.

An updated version of this article was published on July 19 at 9:45 to include comment from Juliet Watts.