I'm back from today's celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Yonge Subway line.
The fun part was riding in a special train, with anniversary decorations and historic advertising, as it followed the tracks of the inaugural train from 1954. We started at Davisville Station, headed up to Eglinton, and then all the way down to Union, non-stop. In the lead car were David Miller, Dalton McGuinty, and cabinet minister Joe Volpe. (We all thought Paul Martin was on the train, especially since there were so many police on all the station platforms and bridges above.)
When we got to Union Station we gathered in the Great Hall and heard speeches from each of these government representatives, as well as TTC Chair Howard Moscoe, and the heads of the Candian and American transit associations. The CBC's Andy Barrie was the moderator.
Most of the speakers used the ceremony to make a point about Toronto's transit system. This is a turning point, and it remains to be seen whether or not we will thank or curse these politicians in 2054, on the 100th annversary. Just to make sure, a time capsule was sealed that contained the city's official plan and the TTC's ridership growth strategy, as well as a shining segment of rail and a document signed by all the political representatives.
In the background to all this was an announcement of new funding for the TTC from all levels of government. This was essentially the announcement that was rumoured at the beginning of the month. Each level of government is putting in $70-million per year over five years. (And somehow the Toronto Star reported it with the headline "Martin drops $1B in TTC ticket box".)
This money is really a drop in the bucket compared to either historic provincial funding or what the TTC needs to maintain itself. Nevertheless, the city representatives and the transit advocates on stage were thankful... while reminding McGuinty and Volpe that they consider this merely a "downpayment". In front of a David Miller crowd, and after a speech by the Mayor, Dalton McGuinty had no choice but to agree.
Federal representative Joe Volpe had the misfortune of speaking last. He was overshadowed by the better speakers that preceded him, and I was distracted by a musical band of U of T engineering students who were trying to sneak in and disrupt the ceremony. Still, I did hear enough of Volpe to hear him make a gaffe and to also hear him say, in a very noncommital way, "I have heard those lobbyists who say that this is just a downpayment."
Volpe's gaffe was when he was trying to make a point about how much he likes the TTC. Now that he is a cabinet minister the RCMP says he is not allowed to ride the subway with us "common folk". He seemed to be speaking more to a few other current and former ministers he could see from the stage than to us commoners who filled the room. Oh well.
Anyway, watching how David Miller and Dalton McGuinty interacted on stage, I am optimistic that there is more good news to come. First, because McGuinty said a lot of the right things and continued to make promises. But second, because Miller -- in his friendly, cooperative way -- gave all the signs of being the dominant player on that stage. He's the credible champion for Toronto that Mel Lastman never was, he's consistently on point, and he's showing Dalton that in the long run he can help make him a winner... or a loser.