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Ontario Liberal leadership hopeful Michael Coteau has an idea to curb climate change, and it may not be what immediately comes to mind.
Coteau has announced a proposal that would make public transit free, eliminating fares within a decade in order to get commuters onto more public transportation.
“Climate change is an urgent, existential threat. We need to act in ways that empower Ontarians to reduce their carbon footprint and save their hard-earned money,” Coteau said Monday.
“Our actions must be bold and decisive … I believe, as a principle, that like other public services in Ontario, public transit should be free at the point of access,” he said.
“Within the context of a province-wide initiative to identify and mitigate barriers to use of public transit, we will develop and implement a plan to eliminate transit fares incrementally over the course of a decade.”
Coteau didn’t mince words when discussing the difficulty of his proposal, which would cost billions of dollars.
“This initiative will involve all local, regional and provincial transit entities in all parts of Ontario and entail all modes of public transit,” said Coteau.
“We will undertake cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of fare-free transit at achieving targeted environmental, economic and social objectives and determine the return on the province’s investment in free transit,” he said.
“We will use the findings of this analysis to inform evidence-based decision-making on the role free transit can play in transitioning Ontario to a greater reliance on public transit to meet our transportation needs.”
Coteau will be running for Liberal leader of Ontario come March 2020, in which he’d have to face current the incumbent Progressive Conservatives in the 2022 election.
“The Ford Conservatives are running away from the climate crisis. Under my leadership, the Ontario Liberals will stand with Ontarians and fight to do our part to protect our planet.”
As of now, there are five candidates who will be seeking the position as Ontario’s Liberal leader.
The proposal is backed by some economists and studies, who claim that a city’s productivity would increase substantially with easier access to public transportation.
Recently, Luxembourg, a small and wealthy European nation with a population only 20 percent the size of Toronto, recently made all public transportation free.
The deadline for entering the Liberal contest is 5 pm on Nov. 25. Candidates must also pay a fee of $100,000 to run.