15 environmental groups signed an open letter calling on Minister Freeland for federal funding to save public transit systems

Ottawa | Traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg People – Today, a coalition of 15 environmental groups, including Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Greenpeace Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and Climate Action Network Canada, signed an open letter calling on Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to intervene once again to save public transit systems from financial crisis related to lower farebox revenues due to the pandemic.

They also called on the Finance Minister to accelerate the rollout of the permanent public transit funding program, to put transit systems on a secure financial footing and on a path towards service expansion at a pace consistent with meeting Canada’s climate goals.

As the open letter to Minister Freeland states: “Public transit systems across the country are at risk of falling into a death spiral. That is a vicious cycle of service cuts and fare hikes that push people away from public transit and into their cars, further decreasing revenue, leading to further service cuts. If this is allowed to happen, it will make cities more congested, increase carbon emissions, and have the greatest impact on society’s most vulnerable. The federal government has saved public transit from disaster before, and it can do it again.”

Cities across Canada have budgeted hundreds of millions of dollars in transit operating support that they are expecting federal and provincial governments to fill, as they have for the past two years. Previous federal operating support for transit was conditional upon provincial matching contributions, prompting some provinces to step up where they otherwise would not have.

  • The Canadian Urban Transit Association estimates that for every 10 per cent loss in transit ridership below pre-pandemic levels, transit systems across Canada collectively lose $470 million per year. Ridership is currently at approximately 70 per cent Canada-wide.
  • The City of Toronto has budgeted $366 million in its 2023 budget in expected transit assistance from federal and provincial governments, and the TTC expects a further $350-$420 million sized hole in its budget in 2024.
  • A January 2023 internal survey by the Ontario Public Transit Association has estimated an operational deficit of at least $510 million for Ontario’s entire public transit sector.
  • The Association du transport urbain du Québec estimates that Quebec systems have a collective deficit of $560 million in 2023.
  • Metro Vancouver’s transit system, TransLink, has requested $250 million from the federal government, to be matched by British Columbia, to prevent service cuts and to enable the agency to get out of ‘survival mode’ to focus on service expansion.

“Canada’s climate community stands behind saving public transit. In a climate emergency, our political leaders must do the same. This joint statement highlights our common conviction that allowing a public transit death spiral to occur is an unacceptable policy choice. The upcoming federal budget will be a litmus test of whether Canada is serious about cutting transportation emissions,” said Nate Wallace, Clean Transportation Program Manager at Environmental Defence.

List of signatory groups

Environmental Defence Canada
Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment
Citizens Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario
Climate Action Network Canada (CanRAC)
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
The Council of Canadians
The David Suzuki Foundation
Ecology Action Centre
Grandmothers Act to Save the Planet (GASP)
Greenpeace Canada
JustEarth Coalition
MiningWatch Canada
Music Declares Emergency Canada

Open Letter


Issue Backgrounder


Additional Resources


ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, abraude@environmentaldefence.ca