The mayors of Canada’s largest cities say they need federal aid to cover tens of millions in transit revenue shortfalls to stave off a stalling of the country’s economic recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit municipal coffers hard as cities have watched transit ridership drop along with fare revenue.
At the same time, cities have seen expenses rise, leading to budget holes that mayors have repeatedly sought federal cash to fill.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says big cities are focusing first on getting help for transit costs to avoid cuts in service that he adds would hurt workers and businesses that rely on train and bus services.
The chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ big city mayors’ caucus also says that absent help, cities could be hard-pressed to make updates to their transit systems that the federal Liberals have promised to help fund.
In related news, last month Metrolinx has announced it will be implementing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for its employees.
“Vaccination is the most effective way to reduce the chances of infection and weaken the virus’ ability to cause serious illness,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said in a statement issued Friday. “Therefore, Metrolinx will implement a mandatory vaccination policy for employees.”
Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency that oversees GO Transit, UP Express and Presto, said about 81 percent of employees who responded to an internal survey are fully vaccinated, with two percent having their first shot.
It said a mandatory vaccine policy will boost the number of staff and help recovery efforts as the more contagious variant Delta drives the fourth wave.
“Many of our employees are already vaccinated but now we are facing a more contagious foe that could threaten the incredible progress we have made to control the spread,” Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said.
“Our goal was and continues to be to ensure our teams and our customers have the highest protection possible.”
When it comes to testing, Aikins said the policy would go further than provincial guidelines outlined this week for workers in hospitals, schools and other high-risk jobs, which will allow workers who don’t take the shots to regularly undergo testing as an alternative.
“We don’t expect it to include rapid testing,” she said. “We’re expecting it to be a mandatory vaccination policy.”
She said Metrolinx already has rapid testing at some high-risk locations and employees have expressed interest in stronger protective measures.
Metrolinx joins the City of Toronto, TTC, Ontario Public Service workers, some hospitals, multiple banks and other businesses and institutions that have implemented a similar policy.
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