Olivia Chow calls for long-term transit and infrastructure plan
Published Friday, February 22, 2013 12:25PM EST
Toronto Member of Parliament Olivia Chow is calling on the federal government to invest in a long-term plan to solve cities’ problems of traffic gridlock and crumbling infrastructure.
The Trinity-Spadina MP announced at a press conference in downtown Toronto Friday that she has tabled a motion urging the ruling Conservatives to include a “long term, predictable, and accountable” plan into the upcoming budget, which she expects will be released sometime in March.
The motion is to be debated in the House of Commons next Tuesday.
“We will be focusing specifically on cutting commute times, fixing the crumbling infrastructure like the Gardiner (Expressway),” she said. “Remember, every dollar of your tax – 45 cents of it goes to the federal government.”
Chow said simply renewing the existing $1.5-billion infrastructure program, set to expire shortly, is not good enough because it is too short-term and unpredictable.
She said Toronto had to foot the bill on its own for a new fleet of streetcars because the project could not fit into the federal government’s two-year funding cycle timeline.
“So where did the money come from – it came from your property tax base and that’s not fair,” Chow said.
She also characterized the current funding formula as one that leads to partisan consideration and a “grant lottery type system” for funding projects.
She pointed to the government’s building of gazebos in Ontario’s Muskoka region. The Harper government was lambasted after pouring money into the gazebo projects as the area prepared to host the G8 Summit in 2010.
“All power to gazebos but you know what – solving commute times is a lot more important.”
Last week, Chow invited Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to come to Toronto and to experience Toronto’s rush-hour traffic on the subway. She repeated her invitation at Friday’s announcement.
“Come and ride the TTC subway with me, the Yonge Street line during rush hour, you will be convinced that we need an infrastructure plan – we need it now,” she said.
Though planning agencies like Ontario’s Metrolinx are currently examining the possibility of implementing revenue-generated sources such as road tolls and parking levies to combat commute problems in Ontario, Chow said Ottawa should be looking to its existing tax base.
“Torontonians pay three billion dollars in GST alone, we’re about to pay more in income taxes … and we need to get some of that money back to the city and all across Canada ,” she said.
Still, Chow said she is open to hearing what Metrolinx proposes when it comes out with a report in June.
Chow said the type of program she’s proposing to the House will cost a “substantial amount of money” but it is practical and sensible. Chow said she has the support of municipalities and Chambers of Commerce from “coast to coast to coast.”
In a statement issued hours after Chow’s announcement, Minister Lebel chided the NDP for its record on federal infrastructure funding in Canada, saying the New Democrats have opposed every federal infrastructure initiative in Canada over the last seven years, including a $33-billion Building Canada Fund and thousands of Economic Action Plan projects.
"Time after time, and in budget after budget, the Harper Government has delivered for communities, while Olivia Chow and the NDP have consistently voted against job-creating infrastructure projects,” it read.