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The GO Transit Dispute
16/06/2003
The City of Toronto is refusing to pay the share of GO costs that they’ve been mandated to cover, and have taken the stance that they won’t do so until the province pays their share of TTC funding. I say, good for them. As a City taxpayer, I believe our money should be spent in the way that creates the most bang for our buck, and clearly the TTC is much more valueable for residents and voters like me than GO is. Back to the story. One of the most disloyal politicians in recent Toronto history -- responsible for the forced amalgamations and downloading that have crippled the city he supposedly serves and for the support slashing that has endangered the transit authority he once led -- actually has the nerve to continue to show his face in public. As quoted in the Toronto Star today:
”They’re a bunch of deadbeats who owe us $16 million,” GO vice-chairman Al Leach told a regular GO board meeting last Friday. “We have to take action on this. We have to send a message to the City of Toronto.”
I don’t know how he goes on. In fact the whole article seems to reveal an entirely different way of thinking that I find hard to understand. Over the past eight years, the Harris/Eves government has dramatically intensified the transfer of wealth out of the City of Toronto into the 905 suburbs. At the same time, suburban politicians continue to speak as if it is actually them who are supporting the wasteful, extravagant city... the urban core that supposedly doesn't know how to manage its funds. They like to imagine that if the Toronto never existed there would still be a great city surrounding the County of York's farmland. Call it the smoggy horseshoe. The reality is, there would be virtually no 905 except for people who are employed in the city and choose a long commute to work in exchange for tax avoidance and suburban lifestyle. In the same Toronto Star article, we read:
The regional voices reminded Toronto that they pay millions to help fund the city's social services. Said Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion: "I think Toronto had better smarten up."
As I've written before, this is a false start. Suburban support of these social services is entirely to be expected. They really ought to be provincial services, but regional pooling is the next fairest thing. As for GO, I do wish that both it and the TTC were well funded. However, I have no question about my priorities. Furthermore, I have no fears about GO Transit's threats. GO board members are working on a document set to prove that GO expansion has built our downtown. They are operating on a false premise:
"GO Transit feeds every single one of the towers in downtown Toronto," said York Region chair Bill Fisch. "If people can't come down here, employers will find alternate locations for jobs."
Uh, I don't think so. GO Transit has helped build the suburbs by allowing people to get to their jobs from further away. Without GO Transit, the highways would have been many times more jammed, and people simply wouldn't have been able to move quite as far out to the middle of nowhere. GO's other threat is to postpone projects in the City region. According to The Star, "some that could be in jeopardy include expanded parking at Mimico, better integration between the TTC and GO at Oriole station and a new GO station at the TTC's Kennedy station." The thing is, most of these projects seem like they would very much be for the benefit of 905-residing riders. The Oriole adjustment should allow travellers from the northern suburbs to access the Sheppard subway line. It will hardly be used by people getting off the Sheppard subway line to catch the GO train downtown. Ditto, I believe, for Kennedy. Again, I will reiterate my support for GO, and even for the City of Toronto making a contribution. I just feel that the TTC is a higher-priority. It moves ten times more passengers, at a much lower cost for each. Toronto's GO subsidy of $16 million could nearly pay for the entire St. Clair LRT project. I find myself agreeing with Mel Lastman. Five years ago, when the Harris-Eves Tories -- with loyal Leach as Municipal Affairs Minister -- dumped GO funding costs onto the city, Mel complained. As originally reported in the Toronto Star:
Lastman said the city isn't getting its money's worth, considering 85 per cent of the riders live in the 905 areas. ``Toronto is not in a position to pay these additional costs and subsidize the 905,'' Lastman told reporters.
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