WATCH: Keep politics out of transit says board of trade.
TORONTO – In the midst of a Toronto election campaign, with transit as the main issue, the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) suggests politicians need to back away from the planning process.
“The politics will always be there,” Carol Wilding, President & CEO for the Board said. “There are ways to insulate or to make those decisions to stay and stick and that’s what we’re saying in terms of the best practices.”
A new report calls for better government structure in an effort to allow agencies, such as Metrolinx, the ability the see plans through without interference.
Different models from around the world (London, Stockholm, New York City and Portland) were cited as examples that have withstood political change and different ideas.
Wilding emphasized that “the time is now” with $15 billion earmarked over 10 years by the provincial government for transit infrastructure in Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Ontario Transportation Minister Stephen Del Duca responded to the report with a written statement.
“Our government knows that decisions must be made transparently, be based on solid business case criteria and that our shared goal remains creating an integrated transportation network across the GTHA.”
Toronto mayoral candidate, John Tory, has touted his SmartTrack plan as the solution for the city’s gridlock but has been criticized for the tax increment financing (TIF) model he’s proposed for funding.
“John will let the experts do their job,” a campaign spokesperson said. “Implementing SmartTrack and other Regional Express Rail projects is what Metrolinx’s experts are doing right now.”
Olivia Chow has also proposed a plan based on increased bus service and light rail transit in her run for mayor.
“We should let experts decide what is the best plan,” Chow said. “That said, it’s still the political representative who should do the final approval.”
Wilding pointed at the Scarborough subway debate as the perfect example for politics getting in the way of progress.
The original light rail plan made way for a new underground extension after both local and provincial governments weighed in.