The Toronto Regional Board of Trade recently released a discussion paper announcing four transit funding options for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) to support the Metrolinx “Big Move” regional transit expansion plan. Their four funding options are: A dedicated sales tax, fuel tax, parking levies and high occupancy vehicle lanes. It’s important to note that the amount of transit funding needed for infrastructure expansion is astronomical with the initial price tag estimated at $50 billion, or $2 billion per year over 25 years.
Not long after the Board made their announcement, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath rejected their proposal, claiming their measures were not “fair and balanced.” Instead she suggested the provincial government close “corporate tax loopholes” to pay for transit. Her suggestion ignored the importance of having long-term dedicated transit funding that is secure and free from political intervention.
The issue of transit funding has become a political football that has been tossed about for the past 40 years – and unless we separate funding from politics through a secured and protected funding stream the Toronto regions economic viability could be severely hindered.
I implore Ms Horwath to become aware of the “hidden” tax that gridlock is already imposing on people and corporations in the Toronto region. The Board of Trade estimates that gridlock is costing Canada $6 billion annually and this number is increasing each year. To suggest that we impose $2 billion more per year in taxes on companies that already suffer from this hidden gridlock tax could well drive them and the jobs they create out of the region.
I have always had great respect for Ms. Horwath; she is a smart, dedicated woman and I encourage her to listen to her constituents in the GTHA. They want action on gridlock, and are very much aware of the fact that politics has stood in the way of the transit expansion.
I hope that Ms. Horwath evaluates all forms of transit funding so that she understands the level of funding needed and why supporting the funding options suggested by the Board of Trade is an important first step to transit expansion. I hope she takes careful consideration of the idea of phased funding with a dedicated 1% sales tax being the first phase connected to the next phase of development for the Big Move plan.
Copying Mr. Hudak’s failing and blatant attempt to win votes and block transit expansion will only serve to lose her core NDP support in urban areas where they understand the need to fund transit expansion .
A much stronger stand for Ms. Horwath would be to insist that jobs and contracts for transit infrastructure expansion be awarded to Ontario companies. If Ms. Horwath truly wants to protect and create jobs for Ontario families, insisting that infrastructure expansion be done using Ontario companies offering jobs to Ontarians has much more consistency with her message — and doesn’t get in the way of transit expansion.
By working together, by agreeing to phase in dedicated transit funding and include voters every step of the way, we can move the transit file ahead significantly.
I implore Ms. Horwath to support transit expansion funding options outlined by the TTC and the Board of Trade and to work with the Liberal government to get the Toronto region moving forward. Together.