The Silent Giant

Mayor Rob Ford’s critics in Toronto’s (and now Mississauga’s) City Hall have come in full force against his will to stop any new taxes imposed on Torontonians for a dubious transit plan from Metrolinx called “The Big Move”. Some people in the media are even calling for a “David” to slay the “biblical Goliath”, as if Ford is a giant who wants to kill and eat us, with his stern opposition to new taxes. However, these people conveniently ignore the Silent Giant that is Metrolinx, which is trying to suffocate the people of the GTA with new $2 Bn taxes per year. This is an average of almost $1,000 on new taxes every year per family, or household. And for what? For a plan that aims to build subways at 3-times the cost of similar ones, and that will put LRTs in the middle of busy streets; oh, and wait for this, that can ONLY be financed with new taxes? Why are they not inviting the private sector to help us finance such plan, as it is done in many other world metropolis, including in Canada? Is that the best Metrolinx could come up with? I’ve been questioning Metrolinx publicly why, but this Giant remains conveniently Silent.

Metrolinx has been unable to explain to us why its Big Move plan costs 3-times its precursor MoveOntario 2020. Besides some changes on GO Transit improvements, the major difference is that the Big Move plan includes the Downtown Relief Line, while MoveOntario 2020 includes the Spadina subway extension. Does this difference explain the change in budget from $17.5 Bn to $50 Bn? Of course, when you propose subways at $570 million per kilometre, vs the existing Sheppard subway that cost a third of it, or $200 million per kilometre – in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation -, the sky is the limit.

This plan seems to be the brain-child of Paul Bedford, the former Chief Planner at Toronto’s City Hall, and a staunch anti-car activist. The idea would be to come up with a plan as expensive as possible, in order to make the case for new taxes, and road tolls. It also includes the last-minute David Miller’s “Transit City” plan to put slow LRTs in the middle of the street, instead of rapid transit underground. That will slow down traffic even more, creating an even bigger urgency for more transit investment, and, guess what: more taxes. It’s a never-ending cycle of worsening quality of life, and worsening cost-of-living, which creates more dependence on power-hungry politicians and its union and corporate backers.

It has been almost half a century of bad transportation planning decisions, where very few rapid transit improvements, and NO new road capacity has been provided to an explosive population in Toronto. What other than increasing congestion can we expect, then? And this is not only causing billions of dollars of wasted productivity, but is also putting our biking and walking children, and seniors in danger, with growing congestion on residential streets. This is not “Smart Growth”, but completely Irresponsible Growth.

The Big Move proponents tell us to look at Los Angeles, or Paris, or San Francisco, as examples of how they implemented the so called “revenue tools”, or how they have included LRTs in the middle of streets, or how they have even reduced road capacity. However, they conveniently neglect to tell us that those continue to be the most congested cities in the US and Europe, respectively. On the contrary, what these cities are showing us is that mediocre transit, no new road capacity, and new taxes, will never alleviate congestion.

So what does the people of Toronto say about this scam? Well, Metrolinx and the City of Toronto called for people’s participation through poorly-attending public forums and website commentary. Few people found out about these, so less than 400 people attended the City of Toronto forums, and less than 7,000 left comments on its website. Metrolinx didn’t get much better participation, either. So, do they now think that they represent the voice of the people? We are talking about less than 0.3% of Toronto’s population on website comments, and less than 0.02% in the public forums. The rest was probably too busy stuck in traffic, or with other concerns, or simply never heard about this plan. Oh, but CivicAction and the Toronto Board of Trade are also telling us that they have a lot of backing from their website comments and some Board of Trade members. However, they don’t tell us that their proposed parking levy will effectively subsidize major retailers to the detriment of small businesses. Wow, talk about democracy! Even this email, will probably have more reach of people than the negligible participation on the above mentioned public forums and website comments. The people of Toronto should, at least, have a say via a referendum, or through a vote on the transportation platforms of political candidates.

The Silent Giant of Metrolinx needs to get back to us and answer these questions; or, get back to work on a credible transportation plan. What they are doing today, is stubbornly insisting on a plan that will only increase our cost of living, destroy small businesses, make congestion worse, and continuing to make our residential neighbourhoods more dangerous. Torontonians would like to see which candidate will continue to pursue new taxes to pay for this destructive plan.

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4 thoughts on “The Silent Giant

  1. I wonder if those who pierce holes in themselves and paint their bodies will soon descend on this blog to spew their pseudo-intellectual hate?

    • Peter,
      Thank you for commenting, and feel free to do it again. Please, help spread the word about the momentum we’re trying to build for balanced, efficient and effective transportation planning in our city.
      Best regards,

      Jose Ramon

    • In general, I don’t trust politicians proposing to raise taxes, specially when we see so much of our taxes being wasted. I’m not referring so much about the latest publicized scandals, but particularly, the $8 billion on gas taxes that Ontarians pay every year. The province only invests about $3 billion per year on provincial road improvements and maintenance, and another $3 billion on transit infrastructure, so drivers are already subsidizing Ontario’s transit capital development. Some people argue that we don’t pay enough gas taxes to pay for the maintenance of all our roads, but they fail to acknowledge that our municipal property taxes are the ones that pay for municipal roads, and the operation of our transit systems. It is, simply, unfair to ask for more taxes at this point.

      On the other hand, my biggest concern is the price tag that TTC and Metrolinx are putting to their proposals. As I mentioned on my column above, I am convinced that we first need to get a transit plan with proper and competitive costs, or we will continue this growing trend of spending our taxes unnecessarily on overpriced infrastructure, as is the case with the current Spadina subway extension. I believe that for the same kind of proposals that Metrolinx is showcasing in their $50 billion plan, they can be properly done for less than $20 billion, therefore, eliminating the need to raise any taxes.

      I wonder if Canadian taxpayers are going the way of our neighbour US taxpayers, who are gouged on a regular basis, when it is about public works contracts. Well, Montreal seems to indicate that it is also happening here. Read “U.S. Taxpayers Are Gouged on Mass Transit Costs”: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-26/u-s-taxpayers-are-gouged-on-mass-transit-costs.html

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