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Op-Ed: Stop the political posturing on Toronto transit

Read the op-ed in the Toronto Star.

There is no such thing as “free transportation.” Addressing the unbearable congestion and commute times and giving more commuters a real reason to get out of their cars will cost taxpayers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). To be convinced it’s worth it, we need to believe the benefits outweigh the extra costs to our pocketbooks.

Recent wildly contradictory debates around rapid transit in Scarborough have distracted from the crucial conversation of how we pay for the regional network we so urgently need, including Toronto subways.

There are 6 million of us in the GTHA, and we can’t lose sight of improving the options and experience for everyone, including the one in five GTHA residents who make 2.4 million trips across a municipal boundary each day.

The province of Ontario says it will introduce measures in its spring 2014 budget to raise funds specifically for the next wave of projects to better serve local and regional travellers alike. We as residents need to show all politicians that this is critically important, and we’re ready to see it happen.

The benefits of real investment are massive. Yet without dedicated sources of funding, projects such as the subway extension to Richmond Hill, the Hurontario-Main LRT, electrified and enhanced GO service from Hamilton to Oshawa, 36 kilometres of bus rapid transit linking Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa, and a relief line to ease congestion in Toronto’s overcrowded subway system are nothing more than pipe dreams.

There is so much at stake, and to bring those stakes home, CivicAction is launching the next phase of its Your32 campaign.

Every day in November, CivicAction and its broad coalition of partners representing more than a million people from business, labour, academia and the non-profit sector are highlighting another reason why investing in transportation is critical for jobs, our health, environment, neighbourhoods, and quality of life.

Among the “32 Reasons to Invest” over the next 20 years:

  • tens of thousands of jobs.
  • improving access to work, school and health care, especially for those who have no other choice than transit.
  • reducing by 29 per cent the carbon emissions each of us generates.
  • reducing the millions of dollars lost as trucks idle in traffic.
  • contributing to the value of buildings and property.
  • making the region more attractive for tourists, large employers and talented workers alike.

As the province figures out how to deliver all of these benefits to residents, it must be accountable.

We need to see how the money is raised, where it gets spent and what it actually delivers. How the government does this has the potential to inspire trust from the public. But a failure to do so will likely mean we never get consensus on investing in regional transportation.

We need specific new measures to safeguard our tax dollars, and for those who say a better transportation network can be paid for by eliminating waste in government, let us see the list of specific cuts.

Your voice is needed to encourage rational proposals and to break the cycle of political posturing.

Go to to pick the reason to invest that matters to you, and join the thousands of residents and a third of all GTHA elected officials who have already pledged their support for new investment. Then challenge the remaining elected officials to pledge their support, too. Add your voice to the call for funding sources that are dedicated to transportation, efficient, transparent and accountable, regional, fair and sustainable.

The current non-decision-making process isn’t working. Our political leaders need to deliver a way to invest in better transportation for all GTHA residents. They need to step up, rise above the short-term wins and relentless politicking and be the bold leaders that we need them to be.

Our brighter future depends on it.

John Tory is Chair of CivicAction. Rob MacIsaac is president of Mohawk College and member of CivicAction Board of Directors and CivicAction Regional Transportation Champions Council.



John Tory and Rob MacIsaac

Appeared In (Publisher):

Toronto Star