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May 2013

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Toronto Transit Alliance host symposium on the Big Move

Think big. That was the message being put forward by the Toronto Transit Alliance (TTA), their panel of guests and a room full of self-professed transit geeks. On the panel were Bruce McQuaig, President and Chief Executive Officer of Metrolinx, Richard Joy of the Toronto Board of Trade, Mitsy Hunter of Civic Action and Cherise Borda of the Pembina Institute. The Big Move is a transportation plan for the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area (GTHA) being put forward by the provincial government agency Metrolinx. At 25 years and $50 billion, the Big Move is the first plan of its kind. The potential is here to have a drastically positive impact on the GTHA. Everything from community connection to employment could be impacted. There is only one problem: How are we going to pay for it?

Sarah Thomson, Chair of the TTA and Publisher of Women’s Post, has been adamant about pushing for a 1% regional sales tax. Such a method would get those living and working in the region to share in the cost while raising more than $800 million per year toward municipal revenue. Is this the answer? Possibly.

There are a number of other tools that cannot be discounted. A recent report from Metrolinx advised the region look at a number of option revenue options; chief among them connecting expansion to property tax and tolling roads.

Whatever revenue tool the region chooses to utilize, this is an issue that needs to be resolved. As things stand currently, the region is losing $6 billion annually to gridlock. That number is only expecting to balloon to $15 billion by 2031. But Richard Joy made it clear that we have an opportunity if an early provincial election is called. He is calling on Ontarians to make this the ‘transportation election.’ Put transportation on the map during the coming election cycle. Transportation consistently ranks among health and education as the most important issues to Ontarians. It is time we responded to it as such by calling on the government to create a dedicated stream of funding specific to transportation.

One thing is certain: if governments and citizens do not address this now, the issue will get away from them. Transportation has already become a generational issue. If we act now we can make sure the next generation is not saying the same thing to us. So, as Thomson said to close the symposium, “Tell everyone you know about the need for revenue tools.”

 

For more information on the TTA’s proposals to ‘unlock gridlock,’ take a look at their website and follow them on Twitter at @TransitAlly and #UnlockGridlock.

Women of the Week: Erin Deviney

Many people can cite exact moments in their lives that caused them to reevaluate their lives. When she was 20, Erin Deviney went on an Outward Bound Trip to Central America. According to her, it “profoundly changed how I see the world.”

“It opened my eyes to the difficult realities faced daily by so many people across the globe. Ultimately, I learned that poverty is such a complex issue and it is not about a single thing. It is about the environment, about education, about governance, about health and so many other factors.”

Initially, after graduating from Queen’s University in 2001 with a degree in Economics, Erin found work as a global market researcher, helping companies discover the best way to access potential customers.

“I found it fascinating to understand what drives people to make the decisions they do,” she says. “But ultimately, I struggled because while I was intellectually satisfied, I was emotionally empty. I wanted to use my skills to benefit people not companies.”

A decision to move to Australia in 2008 would prove to be the turning point in her career. “I saw this as an opportunity to make the shift to the not for profit sector that I had always dreamed of doing.”

After working overseas in Cambodia and Grenada—“Being given the privilege to work in other cultures, particularly one where language is a barrier is truly a remarkable experience,” she says—Erin retuned to Canada.

Now, back home, her primary focus is serving as campaign manager for the Canadian branch of the global movement Live Below The Line.

“Live Below the Line is a campaign that’s changing the way Canadians think about extreme poverty. We are challenging Canadians to step outside their comfort zones by living on just $1.75 a day for all of their food and drink for five days. Why $1.75? There are 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty who have less than $1.75 a day to spend to all of their needs in life from health, to transit, to food. “

The project, which is being taken on by people of every age group across the country, is a creative way to get people engaged in the poverty eradication movement by getting them to experience the daily struggles faced by a large portion of the people on this planet.

Her new focus in Canada is radically different from her former corporate life, but there are no regrets.

“Personally, the biggest difference is passion. When you do something that you love in a field that you deeply care about – it doesn’t feel like work anymore,” Erin says.

Although the initial shift was shocking, Erin adapted and learned from it. As she explains it, “that difference in resources has actually proven to be engaging – in that you have to be creative and resourceful. I think that makes work in the not for profit sector exciting in that there is room for new ideas.”

Not afraid to take chances, Erin has proven that she is willing to stand up for what she believes in. This, she believes, is what sets her apart from her competitors.

“You can’t ignore me,” she says.