Ontario NDP Turns Its Back On Transit

I've traditionally considered the Ontario NDP to be progressive in their views on transit and sustainability, but NDP leader Andrea Horwath has decided to attack the Liberal transit plan instead of supporting it, a stance I find deeply disappointing.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published April 17, 2013

I have to say I'm disappointed with the Ontario NDP's position on The Big Move regional transit investment strategy.

The Ontario Government is trying to find ways to pay for a $50 billion, 25-year plan to complete a regional high quality transit network in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

The government's strategy is controversial because it promises to entail some combination of new fees and/or taxes to pay for it.

I've been very impressed with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's courageous and plain talk on the issue, after successive leaders in all three parties have been reluctant to wade into a touchy subject.

As a result of that reluctance, we've been avoiding necessary investments in transit for decades. The result is highway congestion, lost time and worse air pollution around the GTHA.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has reported that congestion is costing the Ontario economy in reduced annual productivity growth over the years since 1995.

Commuters suffer long drives to work in heavy traffic with few viable alternatives, and it's a drag on our economy as a whole.

I've traditionally considered the Ontario NDP to be progressive in their views on transit and sustainability, but NDP leader Andrea Horwath (also the MPP for Hamilton Centre) has decided to attack the Liberal transit plan instead of supporting it.

Horwath says that "everyday families" shouldn't face congestion pricing, tolls and so on to pay for resolving Ontario's critical transportation problem.

But even if gas taxes, license fees, and everything else that drivers pay for are taken into account, Canadians are still subsidizing roads and highways to the tune of billions of dollars a year.

"Everyday families" like mine are already bleeding money in order to pay for our unsustainably car-oriented culture, even though my family barely uses the infrastructure we're paying for.

I drive on a 400 series highway perhaps once every one or two months. I cycle to work. I lead the kind of environmentally responsible, active transportation-oriented lifestyle that I thought was in line with the NDP's values and polices.

Yet an inordinate share of my tax dollars are still going to pay for road infrastructure I barely use and do not value. I want the ONDP to stand up for me and put the burden of paying for it where it belongs: on people who choose to commute!

Congestion pricing for GTHA highways should be at the top of the list. For a good article on the subject, read The GTHA Should Embrace Congestion Pricing.

I urge Horwath and the NDP to change their position and advocate for sensible, evidence-based and effective ways to resolve Ontario's transportation problem.

Please, take the high road and work with Premier Wynne to achieve this goal instead of using this controversial subject as an opportunity for political gain.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By another capitalist (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 18:35:16

I have been pleasantly surprised by our new Premier.

She is being honest.....what a concept.

We need to build infrasture and guess what....we have to pay for it.

She's a breath of fresh air while the other two "leaders" look dated and tired in their political approach

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By robf (registered) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 19:58:47

Your post is a tad self-righteous. I'm not happy with Horwath's position either, but couching your argument in how virtuous you are for cycling to work hardly addresses why so many people need (rather than choose) to commute. We need pricing mechanisms that change the incentive structure and reduce automobile-based trips, but the gradual impact of such a repricing of mobility on urban structure and the location of employment is at least a generational project (especially since the build-out of new transit lines also takes time to effect locational decisions). It's only in the last half-decade or so that the post-1970 decentralization and dispersion of employment, especially office employment, across the GTA has slowed (and industrial functions are still decentralizing). We live in a polycentric urban region, and only a small minority, as yet, have enough control over where they live and work to achieve the kind of life you lead.

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 05:44:44 in reply to Comment 87893

I agree. How many people in the GHA have the ability to decide where they are going to work? Not many. It's not like jobs are easy to find here, never mind jobs that you can cycle, walk, or take public transit to.

The only way to get more cars off the roads is to provide decent usable modes of transit. Bike lanes are important, but even more so is decent, viable public transit throughout the Entire GHA, not just the City core.

The more Hamilton expands, the more traffic is on those same highways, & main roads. I'd say, most of the rush hour traffic is from the suburbs heading onto the 403, 407, into the downtown, or heading to another area of the GHA. LRT is a good idea, but if most of the traffic is coming in from areas with poor transit, & even poorer connections to get people to & from work, problems will not be alleviated to any great degree. Maybe we ought to be looking at better public transit in the suburbs, as well as a Downtown LRT? If people could get to the Go Station, or even to Main or King Street bus service, there would be an across the board dramatic drop in vehicle traffic.

The suburbs essentially still have the same regional public transit that they had pre-amalgamation. Bus service consists of serving that area only, & tends to orbit around Malls, without regard to the fact people need to get to other parts of Hamilton, or to other cities to work. These are the people who constitute the greatest number of cars on our city streets & highways.

I know that this board is primarily interested in Downtown issues, but I'm reasonably sure that it is a fact that suburban traffic is the major problem & it is a downtown issue.

Comment edited by D. Shields on 2013-04-22 05:47:18

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 17, 2013 at 23:34:13 in reply to Comment 87893

I don't think he is trying to sound virtuous - the argument is about use and personal benefit, not what is the most moral way to commute. Lots of people who rely on cars don't benefit much from the most congested road networks in the GTA.

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By Wynne suks (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 02:04:37

Who cares what this bozo thinks. I'm tapped out. No more taxes. Down with the Liberals!!!

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 18, 2013 at 03:49:07

Premier Wynne has a few problems with her new "revenue tools". ( read taxes).

The Liberal government of the last ten years in Ontario has an absolutely abysmal record of fiscal responsibility with the money that it already collects from the tax payers of this province. Nothing of late has done anything to suggest that their fiscal prudence has would or will improve anytime soon.

There is not a revenue problem in this province, there is spending problem. eHealth Ornge Gas Plants Green Initiative et al

have all been gigantic failures costing billions of dollars.

While I am not a fan of Ms Horvath, or Mr Hudak either for that matter ( he has opted to press the easy button and embrace the politics of division and pettiness), they are both correct in not supporting yet more taxes on the populace of this province

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 15:33:46 in reply to Comment 87917

While I am not a fan of Ms Horvath, or Mr Hudak either for that matter ( he has opted to press the easy button and embrace the politics of division and pettiness)...

He also doesn't think we're worth the investment for LRT, but thinks the mid-pen highway would be a "game changer" for Hamilton. Would love to know how he thinks he can manage massive new highway construction, expansions, and maintenance, without new revenues. Talk about fiscally irresponsible.

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 05:57:26 in reply to Comment 87944

No "Game Change " here. "If you build it, they will come".

The more highways, the more traffic, & the less interest & money available for public transit, & better infrastructure.

Maybe Mr. Hudak would like to 'Pull off another 407"? We pay taxes to build the highway, & it later get's sold off to a private company.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 15:21:16 in reply to Comment 87917

There is not a revenue problem in this province, there is spending problem.

Ugh. Thank you Ronald Reagan. Can we please retire that tired and meaningless old talking point?

Comment edited by AlHuizenga on 2013-04-18 15:21:26

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 18, 2013 at 16:11:05 in reply to Comment 87941

Let's have some fun and try to add up the total cost of the Ontario Liberals' scandals, boondoggles and fiscal mismanagement.

This is admittedly back-of-the-envelope, but here's a stab at it: between eHealth, the Samsung wind turbine sole-sourced contract, the Liberal Slush Fund scandal, OLG expense mismanagement, the HST collector severance pay issue, oversight at the Niagara Falls Commission and the Gas Plant cancellations, we're looking at a little less than $3 billion over about a decade.

There have been some other issues, like expense irregularities in CAS operations and hospital/LHIN consultant contracts, but I haven't been able to determine a rough dollar estimate. Let's be extremely generous and say they've cost another $1 billion.

That gives us a total of around $4 billion over a decade, or around $31 per Ontario resident per year.

That's nowhere near enough to pay for the regional transit expansion the GTHA needs. We need around $2 billion a year for the next 15-20 years to pay for it all.

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 06:17:25 in reply to Comment 87949

Didn't the ORNGE helicopter scandal cost us more than that if we include the cost of the 12 helicopters @ 12 million dollars each, the cost of re-fitting the helicopters, the 2 helicopters that we didn't need that are still currently sitting in storage (for sale) in Philadelphia & are still costing the Ont. tax payer about $10,000.00 per day in storage fees? They will never be sold @ a profit, because of those storage fees & the fact that they are now out of date models, could mean they are unsalable.

Quoting the Tor Star: "In Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police are one year into an investigation of various issues related to ORNGE air ambulance. One line of investigation the police are probing relates to a payment of $4.8 million to a for-profit company controlled by founder Chris Mazza’s company after the non-profit ORNGE purchased 12 helicopters for a cost of $144 million. Mazza has denied any wrongdoing."

I don't think we will know for a very long time, if ever, just how much Mr. McG' & his buddies cost us.

Comment edited by D. Shields on 2013-04-22 06:18:37

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 16:52:26 in reply to Comment 87949

"We need around $2 billion a year for the next 15-20 years to pay for it all."

And that's without taking inflation into account ($50B in 2008 = $55B in 2013), it's just capital costs, and it's basically intended to keep things from getting worse than they are now. In order to actually transform transit and transportation in the GTHA, the government would presumably looking at an entirely different picture and entirely different revenue considerations.

But even doubling the cost of The Big Move should theoretically be an easy sell: We're losing $6 billion in productivity at the moment, and the $2 billion a year is intended to stop us from losing another $9 billion annually 15 years hence. One way or another, we're paying for our policy choices.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2013 at 12:19:04 in reply to Comment 88055

One way or another, we're paying for our policy choices.

Amen. The reason Waterloo Region decided to commit to its LRT plan was that they determined it would actually cost them more to continue sprawling than it will cost to build the line.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 07:25:15 in reply to Comment 87917

This is likely true. Given the history of fiscal mismanagement hanging over the Liberals many of the funding proposals will go over like lead balloons with all but the most adamant transit supporters. Since Ontario voters traditionally are not big time transit supporters I’m going to assume the Liberals are going to run a gauntlet of easy shots by their opponents on this one and are unlikely to emerge unscathed on the other side. You’d have to be a political neophyte not to at least draw some blood and once blood is in the political water…

Heck even Hudak may have a hard time messing this gift up. Sadly, I predict a Conservative win in the next election and a complete elimination of Metrolinx and their plans will likely follow. The “traditional” Ontario voter will eat it all up because “Hudak did what he said he was going to do” and all that nonsense we have seen before and it will be another 8 years of auto dealership owners as transportation ministers.

Cyncial, I know… Canadian voters rarely give me reason not to be.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 07:01:42

Predictable. Too much political hay to be made with those proposals and when all these political parties know how to do is attack one another this sort of behaviour is to be expected.

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By Activist (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:02:34

The Liberal government doesn't HAVE a transit plan. They did have one, but Kathleen Wynne cancelled it when she was Minister of Transportation.

Andrea Horwath, on the other hand, is proposing reversing corporate tax cuts and closing tax loopholes to fund transit. The NDP would restore 50/50 funding for municipal transit. That's a plan that I can support. Perhaps you should too, rather than buying Liberal spin.

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By Rosario Marchese, NDP Urban Transportati (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2013 at 15:37:44

If Adrian Duyzer can detect an actual transit funding plan within Kathleen Wynne's "courageous talk," he is a better detective than I am. Let's be clear: so far the Liberals have announced exactly zero revenue tools to pay for transit and have so far committed exactly zero dollars.

Meanwhile, the NDP has identified $1.3 billion worth of corporate tax cuts that the Liberals plan on giving away starting in 2015. That's $1.3 billion a year that will no longer be available for priorities such as transit. While $1.3 billion will not pay for all of The Big Move, it will certainly pay for a lot of it. So why would the Liberals give this money away, while asking everybody else to pay more?

The province cannot afford to start our search for transit funding $1.3 billion in the hole. Most importantly, the public will not tolerate a Liberal transit funding plan that exempts corporations. We think it is fair for corporations to share the burden, and we believe the public thinks so too.

While the NDP have put $1.3 billion a year on the table, Kathleen Wynne has offered only "courageous talk." You decide what will actually pay the bills.

Question: who decided that progressive income taxes and corporate taxes were now out of bounds? These are the taxes that have historically paid for the vast majority of our public infrastructure. But beginning in 1995, the provincial government began to radically cut these taxes, costing the treasury $17 billion a year in foregone revenue. THIS is why we cannot afford to build transit, not the lack of road tolls.

Bottom line: the NDP supports public transit. We want to see The Big Move built. We know it will cost the province at least $2 billion a year, and we will need new, dedicated and reliable revenue tools to pay for it. But we reject the premise that our province must abandon the principles of progressive taxation and corporate contribution, and we reject the Liberals' insistence that the only way to pay for transit is through user fees and regressive taxes that place a disproportionate burden on Ontarians who are already struggling. And we believe the public will reject this as well.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 18, 2013 at 20:16:11

Horwath's NDP has put household expenses as their central policy plank for quite some time. Car insurance, gas and electricity bills, commuting costs, etc. It's frustrating because they stick with it even when it counters their other ideals - subsidizing heating is not environmentally sound.

To me, it feels like the left-wing reflection of Harper's boutique tax cuts... it violates all the high-minded principles of the party's intellectual elite, but at the same time it gets votes with the base, so they do it.

I have a feeling Wynne will keep her minority government simply because the OLP runs functionally unopposed. The only way I could see either opposition making real gains would be a change of leadership... the new Big City Business version of John Tory would probably clean up.

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By bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2013 at 17:20:55

Revenue is already available! Corporate tax give away $1.3 Billion,pause & AllDay KG,annual cost is $1.6 Billion,pause it now,add the approx. $.7 Billion to the Corporate tax & you have $2 Billion for transit! Governing is about hard choices & selecting priorities! Like to know where $50 B transit cost came from when they currently don't know what projects would be funded? Are you ready to trust any Governmrent with a 25 year project? Remember our current gas tax was to be for transit infastructure & now is general revenue!

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