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What about our infrastructure?

June 9, 2016   ·   0 Comments

IT SEEMS TO BE ALMOST DAILY that we

read about the infrastructure needs of our

large cities, and particularly those in Toronto.

It was only this Monday that we witnessed

Premier Kathleen Wynne celebrating the

completion of track-laying on the long-delayed

extension of Toronto’s subway system into

York Region and portraying it as the fi rst step

toward having a truly regional public transit

system.

Even now, the Province, through its

Metrolinx agency, is building a crosstown LRT

(light rail transit) line along Eglinton Avenue,

stands committed to fi nance an eastward

extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway to the

Scarborough Town Centre and is apparently

ready to fi nance a downtown relief line and a

northward extension of the Yonge subway to

Richmond Hill.

These projects and others likely to be

announced in coming months are part of

a commitment by Queen’s Park to spend

$120 billion on transportation infrastructure in

Toronto. That improvements in the city’s public

transit system are badly needed is hardly

in doubt. But what is, or at least should be,

at issue is the increasing reliance on Ontario

taxpayers to pay for something that essentially

benefi ts only Toronto and its immediate envi rons.

Looking at it in a slightly different way, the

government announcements come at a time

when housing prices in Toronto have risen

about 30 per cent since 2012 and it’s increasingly

diffi cult to fi nd a detached home any where

in the city for under $1 million.

The reason, the experts say, is a worsening

imbalance between supply and demand, with

little or no vacant land left in the City of Toronto

and Mississauga and a Greenbelt area

designed to prevent the sort of urban sprawl

witnessed since the Second World War.

In the circumstances, spending $120 billion

on improving public transit in Toronto will obviously

increase the value of suburban properties,

making it even more diffi cult for young

couples to fi nd a starter home anywhere but

in a high-rise condominium – hardly the ideal

place to be raising a family.

One consequence of the current planning

will surely be an increasing exodus to the

fringes of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton

Area (GTHA), with homeowners commuting

to Toronto from as far away as Kitchener and

Peterborough.

Yet, despite the likelihood of this happening,

we’re hearing nothing at all from Queen’s Park

about improving the transportation infrastructure

in these “exurbs.” We wonder whether

any study has ever been made of the potential

of policies designed to provide affordable

housing and transit facilities on marginal

farmlands in Dufferin and Caledon. Ideally,

we would aim to have new housing available

for under $300,000 a unit, and commuter services

that would allow breadwinners to make

it to and from work in under an hour.

That, we submit, would be possible if

Metrolinx were to abandon its addiction to

double-decker GO Transit trains and purchase

equipment similar to that in use for the

Union-Pearson (UP) Express and provide at

least rush-hour service to Union Station from

Orangeville, Alliston, Stouffville and Peterborough.

Such trains could make the trips to

Union Station in about an hour if they provided

express service through portions of the GTA

that already have double-decker trains. Orangeville-

area commuters bound for intermediate

points in Mississauga and Toronto would

have optional transfers at Brampton. Financing

such services would involve trivial costs

by comparison with those now being contemplated

for Toronto.

Of course, something that should happen,

but won’t, is a provincially imposed property

tax in Toronto to support the transit investments

there. A tax of $100 on each $100,000

of assessed value would raise $1,000 on a

residential property worth $1 million, and still

leave the total property tax burden for Torontonians

well below that already faced outside

the city. Such a measure would at least mean

that a greater portion of the proposed $120 billion

in spending would be borne by those who

will benefi t from it.

Why won’t it happen? Obviously because

there are too many votes in Hogtown.


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