William Watson: budget numbers we really need—benefit per dollar spent at the margin

My very favourite line from this week’s federal budget is “There are no public transit systems in Nunavut.” This is from a note to a table on page 92 of the Budget Plan. Well, duh, of course there aren’t any public transit systems in Nunavut: barely 30,000 people live in Nunavut and the population density is one person per every gazillion hectares. So the absence of public transit there shouldn’t shock anyone.This comes up in the context of allocating $3.4 billion that the federal government is making available to municipalities—not provinces—on a 50-50 cost-shared basis to support public transit. The money is being offered in proportion to municipalities’ share of national public transit ridership, which the table in question shows.Ontario’s cities and towns will get 44.01 per cent of the total, Quebec’s 27.35 per cent, and so on. It turns out there actually is public transit in Yukon, so it will get 0.03 per cent of the funds while the Northwest Territories will get 0.01 per cent (or $320,000—enough to buy, what?, the back third of a bus?). But Nunavut doesn’t have any public transit, has a zero share of national ridership, and therefore doesn’t get any money.You can hear the protests organizing already. Discrimination against the North! Nunavut shafted on transit! Colonialized have-nots excluded again!How long will it be before the injustice is remedied and Nunavut gets its few hundred thousand, too? I’d say less than two news cycles, though I wouldn’t start digging subway tunnels yet.At bottom, Nunavuters…Read More—