Carbon tax to add $1.2M to Winnipeg Transit costs

The new provincial carbon tax will add $1.2 million a year to Winnipeg Transit's operating costs — but Mayor Brian Bowman is ruling out another fare hike.

Mayor says he won't support another fare hike to cover the tab

Winnipeg Transit operating costs are on the rise again, this time because of the provincial carbon tax. (CBC)

The new provincial carbon tax will add $1.2 million a year to Winnipeg Transit's operating costs — but Mayor Brian Bowman is ruling out another fare hike.

On Sept. 1, the cost of diesel fuel will rise 6.71 cents per litre in Manitoba, plus GST, as a result of a $25-a-tonne tax on carbon emissions.

This tax will be applied to Winnipeg Transit, officials with Manitoba Sustainable Development said Thursday.

Based on 17.3 million litres of diesel purchases by Winnipeg Transit in 2017, the service expects to spend an additional $1.16 million per year on fuel, transit spokesperson Alissa Clark said Friday.

That represents more money than the city siphoned away from the Winnipeg Parking Authority during the most recent municipal budget season to avert transit service cuts this year.

Nonetheless, Mayor Brian Bowman said Friday he would not support cuts or additional fare increases on top of the 25-cent-a-ride hike instituted on Jan. 1.

That increase was made to backfill a budgetary hole created by the end of a provincial agreement to cover half of transit's operating costs that are not supported by fare revenues.

"Our transit fare increases were significant this year. So it's not something I would support," Bowman said when asked whether Winnipeg Transit would raise fares again to deal with a carbon tax on top of the provincial funding freeze.

"It was one the worst things I had to oversee and one of the worst decisions we had to make as a result of the provincial decision."

'Doesn't make much sense': NDP

On Friday, government critics continued to question the logic of applying a carbon tax to a service most environmentalists regard as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Doesn't make much sense, because transit is one of the ways in which we can get people to reduce their carbon footprint," said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. 

"[When] we have more people taking transit [and] less people driving individual vehicles, that's better for the environment."

The new provincial carbon tax will add $1.2 million a year to Winnipeg Transit's operating costs — but Mayor Brian Bowman is ruling out another fare hike. 1:44

Aleem Chaudhary, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, claimed Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservative government "does not care about Winnipeg Transit, or the riders, at all, whatsoever."

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires, however, noted the province intends to help transit convert some diesel buses to electric vehicles.​

"We'll be working with Winnipeg Transit so that we can ensure we can work to reduce their carbon footprint, and that they can transition to a low-carbon future with us," Squires said Thursday.

The city estimates the carbon tax will add a total of $1.5 million to $1.8 million to the city budget on an annual basis, including the $1.2-million increase in transit costs, communications manager David Driedger said in a statement.