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April 2015

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2015 Ontario Budget: A huge leap forward for Transit

Over the years  most Federal and Provincial budgets have carried huge promises, with little actual substance. The same funding sources get reused and regurgitated under different names, to make it look like the politicians are actually doing something.  But while the 2015 Ontario Budget has issued some big promises, it surprisingly backs up those promises with real funding streams.

Over the past century Ontario has lacked a Finance Minister with the courage to create a dedicated fund for transit and transportation, primarily because it allows the public to see the actual funds that exist for transit expansion, to evaluate, calculate and understand what is truly available – and question the validity of campaign promises.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa has set up the Trillium Trust, making him the first Minister of Finance in Ontario to create a dedicated and transparent transit fund. This not only an historic event but a significant leap forward for transit in Ontario.   By creating a transparent dedicated transit fund, the Wynne government has taken a crucial step towards setting up a credible and reliable process for funding transit infrastructure expansion. The next step is to create a dedicated funding stream and they have addressed this, albeit in a small way. By dedicating the estimated $100 million per year beer tax to the Trillium Trust, they are sowing the seeds to creating the dedicated transit funding that Ontario so desperately needs to fund the projects promised in this budget.

Ontario is struggling to come up with the funds needed to pay for the $52.5 billion, 25 year Big Move plan launched in 2008. With little additional revenues put in place over the years to fund the Big Move, and shovels in the ground on projects like the Eglinton-Crosstown ($5.3 billion) the immediate need for funding is crucial.

By selling shares in General Motors and Hydro-One and combining this with additional funds from the beer tax, the Wynne government has found a way to raise approximately $5.3 billion to cover the estimated cost of the Eglinton-Crosstown.

Metrolinx will need an extra $3.4 billion a year over 10 years to meet the additional project funding requirements that the Wynne government is promising to spend in this budget on transit projects. Add this to the $50 billion already committed over 25 years for the Big Move, ($2 billion/year) and the total annual investment the Wynne government is promising is approximately $5.4 billion per year over the next 10 years. It’s a significant investment with its first year of funding covered by the sale of assets mentioned above. But  where will the funding come from for the following 9 years? Will it get pulled from Education and Healthcare or will Wynne demonstrate her strength to stand up for the dedicated transit funding Ontario needs? (We are waiting on a response from the Ministry of Finance).

That said, the fact that this budget also addresses the need to electrify the GO lines, clearly outlined in Mayor Tory’s Smart Track proposal – specifically mentioning Smart Track – demonstrates a strong desire to work collaboratively with Mayor Tory.  Minister of Transit Steven Del Duca explained Friday that working collaboratively “with partners” is important to the Wynne government.

The key to building the transit (roads, bridges and rail) that Ontario needs to remain competitive on the world stage is dedicated transit funding and by setting up the Trillium Trust and dedicating the new beer tax to it, the Wynne government has taken a major step inbuilding our communities. The next step is to secure a basket of revenue tools dedicated to this fund to generate the $5 billion annually needed to fund the commitments made in this budget. Tolls, high occupancy toll lanes, sales tax, carbon tax, congestion charges, and parking levies are all tools used in other jurisdictions. A strong campaign designed to educate Ontario residents on the value they receive (positive economic impact/jobs) from infrastructure expansion is crucial to gaining support for the dedicated transit funding needed over the next decade. The 2015 Ontario budget is the right, reasonable and responsible approach to moving Ontario forward.

Public Transit Fund announced in 2015 Budget

The 2015 Federal budget announcement of a public transit fund is a huge leap forward for Canada and we tip our hat to Prime Minister Harper for finally having the kahuna’s to announce it. The fund won’t actually start until 2017, and the 750million – 1Billion annual amount is a drop in the bucket to what is needed across the country, but it is the first step to helping cities across the country become competitive on the global stage and it is a step that other party leaders will have to follow.

But the Prime Minister isn’t wading into a pond of alligators, he’s walking into a dry desert desperately in need. A federal Transit fund will allow municipalities across the country to finally look at long term transit plans and allow urban centers like Toronto to have a real opportunity to combat the growing gridlock.

Many transit advocates had hoped the Budget2015  would announce some form of immediate funding, but alas  it holds off  until after the election, starting in 2017-18 it will provide an additional $750 million over two years for expansion in municipalities, and $1 billion per year ongoing thereafter for a new and innovative Public Transit Fund. ” The fund will work heavily with P3 Canada to ensure that transit infrastructure investment is done in a manner that is “affordable for taxpayers and efficient for commuters.”

Specifics of the Federal Transit Fund suggest that funds will be awarded to projects that are based on the P3 model … “federal support will be allocated based on merit to projects that will be delivered through alternative financing and funding mechanisms involving the private sector that demonstrate value for money for taxpayers, including P3s.” Specifics on  the use of Canadian companies and workforce were not mentioned, which is important to ensuring that the Federal transit  fund has the the greatest economic impact on our communities.

For decades municipalities have called for a federal dedicated transit fund and this budget demonstrates that finally someone is listening. It will be interesting to see what the other parties announce as the election looms closer, but one thing is certain — they will need to have a dedicated transit fund in their platforms or risk losing voters in urban centres across the country.

It doesn’t matter what your political stripe, the 2015 Budget announcement of a federal transit fund for Canada is a fantastic step forward. It will transform our cities significantly and allow us to be much more competitive globally. It is the right, reasonable and responsible approach to building cities across the country, and it is long overdue.

Happy Birthday Taurus! This is a good week to work!

David Beckham is a Taurus Photo by Brian MInkoff-London Pixels  Wikimedia CreativeCommons
David Beckham is a Taurus Photo by Brian MInkoff-London Pixels Wikimedia CreativeCommons
The Sun is now in Taurus, making this a fabulous time for everyone to really “lean in” and get things done! Taurus’s symbol is the bull.  Those born under this sign are known for their work ethic and perseverance.

But what you may not know is that Taurus is ruled by Venus – the Goddess of love, art, and romance. Venus also values all things of worth – including self-worth.

This energy in earthy Taurus manifests a sensual nature, as well as a healthy respect and love for beautiful things. Those born under the sign of the bull will make a beautiful home, appreciate art, good food and look for a compatible and affectionate partner.

David Beckham, Sam Smith, Adele, and Queen Elizabeth are all Taurus.

Taurus can often make a happy match with other earth signs like Virgo and Capricorn as they share similar values and natures.

But if Taurus looks for love with the other fixed signs,like Scorpio and Leo, get ready for a battle of wills.

Romantic and mystical Pisces and nurturing Cancer are both Water signs that blend nicely with earthy bulls.

But beware of simple rules of attraction based on a Sun Sign alone as a person’s Ascendant and Heart Sign will influence their attraction and compatibility with a partner.

Mars, the Warrior, is also in Taurus Trine Pluto the Transformer in Capricorn  makes this really is a good week to work!

Mars rules energy, ambition and raw passion when in harmony with Pluto, the powerful dark Transformer in Capricorn. Not only is there the energy to get  a huge volume of work done, but  you can make real changes and progress.

Stars and Signs by Gracey by Design  for  the Women’s Post.ca

Gracey Hitchcock is a consulting astrologer with 40 years of experience.

Gracey councils her clients on all aspects, but her special area of interest is how astrology can be used to improve relationships.

Reach her at:

https://www.facebook.com/SignsandStarsbyGraceybyDesign?fref=ts

David Beckham is a Taurus.By Brian MInkoff-London Pixels  Wikimedia CreativeCommons
David Beckham is a Taurus.By Brian MInkoff-London Pixels Wikimedia CreativeCommons