Last week, Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel called for a referendum on the "polarizing" east-west Light Rail Transit (LRT) system being planned in Hamilton.
I don't recall a referendum being requested when the Red Hill Valley Parkway was built - as polarizing an issue as any. Ditto for the new stadium. Yet for some reason we need one for LRT?
Could it be because of the estimated $477 per household projected increase in taxes? Think of this: The Red Hill and Lincoln Alexander Parkway cost nearly half a billion dollars (with another half a million just announced for creek repair to stop erosion and flooding).
These costs, and the costs of all the roads and highways built and continually upgraded and maintained, run into the billions of dollars.
Are you puzzled by the lack of hue and cry over these large tax expenditures? Don't be - because none of these road costs have ever been separated out (nor extracted via 'revenue tools') but rather are apportioned out of general revenues in provincial and municipal taxes you pay every year.
A 2005 Transport Canada study found that the total annual cost of Canada's road and highway system was billions of dollars more than the total revenues from all sources, including fuel taxes and fees, licencing costs, parking charges and even traffic ticket fines.
The issue of revenue tools (read: taxes) is the 'third rail' few politicians want to touch. Concerns about re-election always loom large, but sometimes tough decision have to be made for the public good. Contemplate where Toronto would be had the subways never been built in the 1950s.
Waterloo Region recently voted to build an LRT because they calculated that it would cost the region more money not to build it. We need to inform ourselves about the true costs of not building Hamilton's LRT system.
We also need politicians with true vision and leadership who can shepherd this important project through to completion, while getting the best deal for Hamiltonians.
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