Canada’s Prime Minister hinted he was open to providing federal money to pay for local transit – something Metro Vancouver’s mayors need to build their transit plan if the region votes yes.

Stephen Harper says he doesn’t want to weigh in on a local vote – but that there is money available for infrastructure projects.

“I’m not going to get involved in the local transit referendum. That’s a decision for local people to make,” Harper said, adding that his government has already pledged some $75 billion into community infrastructure for the next 10 years.

“Most of that will go into provincial and municipal levels of government. That’s not based on the referendum result, that’s based on the government’s own budget which we’ve already adopted,” he said.

Contributions from the federal government would make up about a third of the expected cost of the $7.5 billion transportation plan proposed by the Mayor’s Council, which includes light rail in Surrey, a Broadway subway, and 400 new buses.

Another one-third would come from provincial funding, and the final third would come from the money raised from a proposed sales tax hike of 0.5 per cent.

Better Transportation and Transit Coalition co-chair Iain Black said he is hopeful that the federal and provincial governments will follow through.

“The federal government and the provincial government, over the last 20 years, they’ve invested in infrastructure investment in the lower mainland and BC, no matter what party was in power,” Black said, adding that the Canada Line is so named in part because of federal dollars that went into building it.

Raising the money from the sales tax hike means the Mayors Council has a guaranteed source of funding to bring to the table.

Black spoke at a press conference where the coalition welcomed its 100th member, the YWCA Metro Vancouver.

CEO Janet Austin said she believes better transit will make Metro Vancouverites fitter, less isolated, and more free to move around without expensive car dependence.

“Is the plan a perfect solution? No. Of course not. But is it reasonable and fair and should we support it? Absolutely, we should. We’d be crazy not to,” she said.

Two other people connected to the YWCA shared their story of waiting for buses that came too infrequently, and were often delayed in transit. One said she would use car, but couldn’t afford to use it.

“I own a car but it’s been parked at my parent’s place in Kelowna, because the costs to insure it and run it are so high,” said Amanda Rose Schellenberg.