Opportunity knocks for NDP on public and active transportation

Good transit options facilitate the making of a better city

Wab Kinew and the Manitoba New Democratic Party (NDP) defeated the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives (PCs) in the provincial election earlier this October. The centre-left NDP ran a relatively moderate campaign with limited attention on climate change, public and active transportation. Now, with the keys to the Manitoba Legislative Building, the party has an opportunity to move equitable transportation forward in Manitoba,

During the campaign, the NDP attempted to draw in the suburban Winnipeg vote by throwing some financial goodies for purchasing electric vehicles as a central environmental policy.

However, another nugget they dropped that went away from anticipated NDP laurels was a temporary tax gas cut, costing $165 million over six months. Many within environmental circles and grassroots activists on social media channels questioned the idea, as analysts have said we need to shift our modes away from automobile use towards public and active transportation as an incredibly effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

I understood why the NDP did it, as it was looking to get voters who rarely consider voting for the NDP. I understood the idea of holding their nose and flanking their opponent. It clearly worked. The party won a majority with 34 seats against the PCs’ 22 and the Manitoba Liberals’ one.

However, this plan does have some risks once implemented. Those risks include making voters angry when the gas tax cut expires. That anger will only boil over with volatile oil prices from current geopolitical conflicts — like Russia-Ukraine War and the Israel-Hamas war.

Despite the challenges, the NDP has an opportunity to push through equitable, sustainable transportation.

UMFM’s “Not Necessarily The Automobile” — which I host — discussed key election issues all parties should have focused on prior to Oct. 3, ranging from public transit safety, restoring 50/50 public transit support for municipalities, road safety, making public transit affordable, and financing active transportation. Some policies got attention. Others rarely did.

The election is done and dusted. The NDP can get to work. Most Winnipeggers consider public transit and active transportation as crucial ingredients.

Imagine moving forward an agenda that focuses on clear measures for financing municipalities for public transit while working to low-cost fares, pushes for harsh rules for distracted driving and lowers the speed limits in residential streets to 30 km/h. Imagine if that agenda offers everything from community engagement with underserved ethnic groups to supports to  financing active transportation networks in core areas of municipalities.

These are bread-and-butter issues for cyclists, environmentalists and the Indigenous community. All are key party supporters. They reflect progressive politics, which the NDP tries to strive for. These policy prescriptions can help improve health care, fight climate change, work towards Truth and Reconciliation, work toward social justice and lower transportation costs.

Kinew and his team have an excellent opportunity to get the ball rolling on ensuring a bright future for public transit and active transportation in Manitoba. Now, it’s up to community activists to hold the NDP accountable and ensure that providing sustainable transport for all gets on the government’s mandate.

Adam Johnston hosts “Not Necessarily The Automobile” Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. on UMFM 101.5. He can be reached at notnecessarilytheautomobile@gmail.com.