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Don Iveson shuts down rumors that Edmonton Transit could be cancelled

Free Edmonton Transit costing the city millions
WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton city council is expected to discuss the future of Edmonton Transit fares Thursday — after the service has been provided free of charge to riders for since mid-March amid COVID-19. As Sarah Komadina reports, it is costing the city millions of dollars a month.

Edmonton city council is expected to discuss the future of Edmonton Transit fares Thursday — after the service has been provided free of charge to riders for since mid-March amid COVID-19.

However, ahead of those discussions, Mayor Don Iveson took to social media Wednesday to dispel rumours that ETS could be shut down over the summer as a cost-cutting measure.

“To clarify: I do not want to see public transit “shut down” or even see @takeETSalert experience reduced service,” Iveson said on Twitter.

“As I’ve stated multiple times, transit will need to ramp up as we reopen if we want to see a strong economic recovery.”

The transit question is expected to be discussed at city council’s Emergency Advisory Committee at its weekly meeting Thursday, where it will also decide whether to reestablish a State of Local Emergency for another seven days.

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READ MORE: Edmonton mayor says funding situation for cities has become ‘more dire’

“Edmonton city council has not had a conversation about cancelling transit, that’s for sure,” councillor Michael Walters told Global News. “My perspective on that is that’s not a very wise or viable idea.

Canadian mayors seek billions in federal aide
Canadian mayors seek billions in federal aide

“We have enormous financial pressures, there’s no doubt about that, but we have to adjust to those in different ways. Cancelling the mode of transportation for nearly 20 percent of Edmontonians is not something I’m really willing to consider in a serious way,” Walters said.

READ MORE: Edmonton patio restrictions eased, city extends state of emergency amid provincial relaunch

Walters added he believes it’s time to start considering reversing the no fare policy.

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“There’s a new bar for hygiene and safety when it comes to not just public transit but any public space. So we need to run with that new bar and make sure that we promote and sell Edmonton Transit as a very clean and very safe place to travel on, and start moving back towards charging.”

Edmonton reducing transit hours, suspending E-scooters and other COVID-19 safety measures
Edmonton reducing transit hours, suspending E-scooters and other COVID-19 safety measures

The stance is supported by Steve Bradshaw, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, who said all he’s heard from Iveson is attempts to  get Ottawa to backstop the millions of dollars of losses the city is facing.

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“In my view, this is an attempt by the mayor to put some pressure onto the federal government,” Bradshaw said.

“We’re looking for the city to start adding service, not to talk about closing service down.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton-area mayors ask Alberta government to lobby feds for COVID-19 recovery funds

Iveson, in his lobbying efforts to the federal government, has said the tab nationally for Edmonton transit alone is $400 million a month.

The city is asking the feds for an overall request of $217 million, part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities backstop request. Of that, $57 million would be for Edmonton Transit.

“As our country begins to relaunch our economy there will be significant scrutiny on whether or not enough is being done to ensure our economic success,” Iveson tweeted. “If cities aren’t provided with the support they need many will find our attempt at an economic restart lacking.”