‘Green commuting’ bill finds second wind
By Jeff Bell, Times Colonist February 11, 2012
With buses passing behind her and cyclists in attendance, Victoria MP Denise Savoie had the ideal setting Friday to announce that her 2009 private member’s bill on “green” commuter choices will be re-introduced in Parliament.
Since she is Deputy Speaker, Savoie cannot bring the Commuter Tax Incentive Bill back herself, so fellow NDP MP Jamie Nicholls, who represents Vaudreuil-Soulanges in Quebec, is taking on the task.
Nicholls, who was on hand for the announcement, is the NDP’s deputy critic for transport and infrastructure, as well as a University of Victoria alumnus.
Savoie and her supporters gathered at the busy corner of Fort and Douglas streets to talk about the re-emerging bill.
“It was an important piece of legislation in the sense that it got support right across Canada from mayors and councils,” she said.
The Canadian Urban Transit Association also favoured the bill when it was introduced.
“What this bill does is it allows employers to provide commuter-related benefits to their employees for either their transit or cycling or carpooling,” Savoie said.
The bill would also help build capacity for transit operations across the country by allowing for longer-term planning, she said. That is an important facet of the bill, Savoie said, pointing to figures that indicate 23,000 people were passed by because of full buses in the capital region last September and October.
Transit workers were represented by Ben Williams, president of Local 333 of the Canadian Auto Workers, who said the number of passengers being left behind shows that changes are needed.
“The system is basically beyond its capacity,” he said.
Nicholls – who did all his travelling by bicycle and bus when he was at UVic – said the bill can help with congestion issues, such as the Colwood Crawl, by promoting different choices for commuters.
Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock said traffic congestion is a big concern for local governments.
“A move like this bill encourages employers to reach out with transportation alternatives, encouraging the thousands of employees who are commuting to and from the workplace every day to invest in an alternative or use a benefit provided by the employer – freeing up capacity on the road.”
Few private member’s bills end up being adopted.