Making the Move – On the Overburdened Taxpayer – by Patricia Sinclair

Letter to Anne Golden – December 19, 2013

Dear Dr. Golden,

Over this past week the feedback on the Transit Panel’s Report demonstrates the dissatisfaction of the average citizen with our decision makers and their advisors.

There is much disconnect between what the people want and what our current government is willing to deliver.  This is leading to the start of a bottom up transition.

Your report has many sound recommendations:

            – redeploying provincial portion of the HST charged on Gas/Fuel in GTHA to transit

            – capturing land value uplift

            – alignment of Transit Plans with the Growth Plan

            – supportive Land Use Policies

            – a dedicated, segregated transparent Transit Funding Account

            – Accountability and Transparency [overall!-not just funding]

            – evidence based evaluation in transit decisions…

However, until the taxpayers of Ontario believe they have a government and a transit agency (including TTC) that is:

            competently managing the monies they are currently collecting and,

            delivering the type of transit and development they want to see built that

            serves the greatest number of people/needs given our scarce resources,

the Transit Panel’s recommendations will simply gather dust.

The provincial Auditor General’s Reports offer Ontarians but a small snap shot of the workings of government, including Metrolinx in December 2012.  The level of incompetence that we are seeing is almost beyond comprehension.

Starting from a base of billions, if we extrapolate a fraction of the findings across the board…, no doubt you can comprehend why the vast majority of Ontarians balk at any calls for tax increases.

There is no doubt we need to create an integrated region-wide transit network.  The public continue their calls for such a plan, as do industry professionals.

The latest report from Michael Schabas[i] highlights the reasons why Metrolinx’s Big Move, if allowed to proceed, will be Ontario’s Platinum Billion $ Boondoggle.

Unfortunately, his report doesn’t go nearly far enough to estimate full opportunity costs nor, GTA’ers cultural attachment to Subways.  As Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner rightly notes, “the goal should not be an increase in transit projects, but a substantial increase in transit usage which is accomplished through effective overall transit planning.”[ii]

We cannot do this unless, like your panel and Mr. Schabas point out, we “have information that is clear, complete and consistent to allow for the comparison of the relative merits and drawbacks of proposed projects.”  He goes further to say that, “At present, this type of information is not readily available, and its absence is impeding public and political debates on how the region can use transit to reduce congestion and improve economic competitiveness.”

Where do we go from here?

1.         There is nothing fair nor necessary about tax increases given the current state of government mismanagement.  No accountability = No Tax Increase

            Our economic situation is such that government must work with the current level of tax revenues, ensure all gas taxes go directly to transportation (transit and roads) funding and, explore other funding sources: debentures, land value capture, private/public partnerships.

2.         All transit plans, current and future, need to be independently, professionally assessed.  The public has little confidence in Metrolinx and no greater in TTC.

            In Toronto, City Planning needs to understand their enabler role.

            Information on the merits (pros and cons) needs to be available, transparent and honest.

3.         We purportedly live in a democracy.  Government, their advisors, civil servants work to serve the will of the people not the other way around.  Transit plans need to deliver what the people want in ways that prove economically enhancing.

2014 will no doubt prove to be an interesting year for transit.

Patricia Sinclair

Real Torontonians Dig Subways

cc: Premier Wynne and provincial MPPs; Transit Panel


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