The author's whole argument is that Hamiltonians will see their taxes go up to fund LRT under the Metrolinx Investment Strategy - but that strategy was rejected from the approved 2014 Ontario budget.
By Ryan McGreal
Published October 01, 2014
this article has been updated
It's a recurring theme in the great light rail transit (LRT) debate: the Spectator publishes pro- and anti-LRT opinion pieces in a laudable effort to present a balanced variety of opinions, but the anti-LRT pieces are inevitably filled with misinformation, incorrect fact claims and bad analysis.
Today's dispatch from the anti-LRT nonsense files is an op-ed by Michael Hilson titled "LRT will be a costly endeavour". Let's dive in:
I'm not sure how the idea of an Eastgate to McMaster Light Rail Transit (LRT) line has maintained its impressive traction without being seriously analyzed
It has been seriously analyzed: by the City, by the Province, by McMaster Institute of Transportation and Logistics and by independent transportation and planning researchers.
The Metrolinx report to the province dated May 27, 2013, entitled "Investing In Our Region,"
Let's stop right here. This is the crux of the entire op-ed, and it's just plain wrong.
The Ontario Government rejected the Metrolinx Investment Strategy in its 2014 budget, which formed the basis of the Liberal Party's sucessful re-election platform in June.
Just to be perfectly clear, the author's entire argument is that Hamiltonians will see their taxes go up under the Investment Strategy's funding tools - but the Investment Strategy is not being used to fund the next wave of Metrolinx transit projects across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
The 2014 budget, which the Ontario Government approved six weeks after winning re-election, allocates $15 billion over ten years to fund a set of capital projects that includes Hamilton's east-west rapid transit line.
After the Liberals rejected the Investment Strategy's funding tools, they settled on the following funding mechanism, as specified in the approved budget
Dedicated funds for public transit and transportation infrastructure would be supported by:
Dedicating proceeds from 7.5 cents of the existing provincial gasoline tax to public transit and transportation infrastructure priorities, starting in 2014–15. This would be over and above the existing gas tax funding provided to municipalities, with no increase to the tax rate from its current level.
Dedicating proceeds from the following proposed targeted revenue measures to public transit, transportation infrastructure and other priority projects:
- Restricting large corporations from claiming the small business deduction;
- Restricting the fuel tax exemption for road-building machines; and
- Phasing in an increase of four cents per litre to the tax rate on aviation fuel over four years.
Repurposing revenues from the existing HST charged on the current provincial taxes on gasoline and road diesel across the province towards public transit, transportation infrastructure and other key infrastructure priorities.
The dedicated funds would also be supplemented by:
Leveraging provincial borrowing, when needed, and including proceeds from green bonds to help finance transit and other environmentally friendly infrastructure projects across the province.
Allocating net revenue gains from certain asset sales through the proposed Trillium Trust, a special fund to be dedicated to Ontario’s key infrastructure.
Working with the federal government to secure federal funding through the Building Canada Plan for key transportation-related projects throughout the province.
Dedicating net revenue gains from high-occupancy toll lanes when they become available.
These two dedicated funds would provide new and stable funding to support priority projects as they are constructed. Once the funds are established, the Province would track new spending on projects, ensuring transparency and accountability for all Ontarians. An online portal would report publicly on project funding and implementation progress.
This is really important to understand: as Ontario taxpayers, Hamilton residents will help to pay for the $15 billion in new transit projects across the GTHA.
If we reject full capital funding for Hamilton's LRT plan, the tax money we contribute to the Province will still go toward paying for that $15 billion in projects, only the money will go to fund rapid transit in Mississauga, Brampton, Markham, Scarborough and elsewhere.
I understand the importance of providing a variety of viewpoints on an issue as important as LRT, but as I've said before, the quality of the arguments against LRT just reinforces the fact that this is an extensively-researched project with a strong, evidence-based foundation of support.
(h/t to Craig Burley for a much-appreciated sanity check.)
Update: the October 3,2014 print edition of the Spectator includes a correction at the bottom of page A2:
Correction printed in the October 3,2014 Spectator, page A2
The text of the correction reads:
A guest opinion piece that appeared in the Comment page on Oct. 1 contained incorrect information. It said the Metrolinx report "Investing in Our Region" was the blueprint for how transit projects, including LRT for Hamilton, would be funded. In fact, that report was rejected by the province in favour of a different funding plan outlined in the budget.
As of this writing, the correction has not been added to the online version of the oped.
Update 2: the Spectator has removed the oped from their website. The URL now returns an HTTP 404 error.
Update 3: the Spectator has restored the oped to their website and added the text of the October 3 correction.
You must be logged in to comment.