By Ryan McGreal
Published April 26, 2010
Are we mature enough to have a grown-up discussion on highway pricing?
That's the question underlying a recent piece by CATCH surveying the political landscape over paying for highways and transit in the GTA.
We have Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, of all people, calling on citizens to "face the music and say how we are going to pay for" our infrastructure. Oakville Mayor Rob Burton suggested that people who still think highways should be free "believe in magic ... I wish I could accommodate them."
It would be a stretch to call highway tolls popular, but acceptance is certainly growing, and a recent poll found over 30% of respondents favoured highway tolls.
Even the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a pro-business lobby opposed to taxes and regulation, is coming around - presumably because market-based pricing is more consistent with their agenda than raising taxes to pay for the infrastructure we need.
However, while road tolls are shaping up to be a significant issue in the upcoming Toronto municipal election, we seem content in Hamilton to cruise along on autopilot.
Two years ago, Hamilton City Council demonstrated its patented Ostrich Manoeuvre and defeated a motion to investigate options for tolling the municipal Red Hill Valley / Lincoln Alexander Parkway.
City Council does seem to be in good company, however, as the Ontario Government also utterly refuses to consider highway pricing options as a means of financing its transformative - and now stalled - regional transit plan.
In the meantime, bereft of truly viable regional transit options, the GTA continues to languish economically under the burden of what may be the worst congestion in North America.