Toronto’s plea for streetcar funds rejected
There is a federal stimulus program available for city infrastructure programs. It was designed for “shovel ready” projects that would be ready to go straight way and could be spent in a couple of years. Obviously, the people who determined these conditions were thinking of the average Canadian city – not its biggest one.
Toronto is ready to replace it current streetcars – which are old, heavy and high floor, with this new design based on what Bombardier has been building for European cities. It would be built in Thunder Bay – which badly needs the work – using a combination of local, provincial and federal funding.
The problem is that there is no program specifically designed for this issue. So Toronto applied for the funds from the available program – and of course got turned down. Now if the federal government Minister had any sense at all he would not have made a “a profanity-laced critique … for which he apologized the next day.”
He says that it is “not a technicality”. But what he really needs to do is give his head a shake and realise what happens when he turns down what he admits is “a fantastic project”. Obviously it cannot be made to fit the procrustean bed he has made. So he should have quietly gone behind the scenes and talked to his cabinet colleagues about how to make this thing happen.
There are no other cities in Canada that have a streetcar system that needs new cars. So obviously whatever Toronto did could not be made to fit any program. Of course the federal government should have been getting behind major urban transit investments – and somehow money has been found for projects like the Canada Line – which was also, at that time, unique. The current flap is simply political ineptitude. It is essential politically for any minority government of Canada to hold on to the centre – they desperately need to ensure that they get the votes of the people who live in Ontario and Quebec. For a government that is all the time hovering over the abyss of a potential confidence vote to make this kind of mistake is incredibly silly.
Baird has come up with a “compromise”
Move up construction projects that can be completed in two years and use the savings to pay the federal share of the $1.2-billion streetcar contract.
So it is alright to use federal funds to build new roads but not replace streetcars? Is that any message to send when there is a critical international climate change conference coming up where Canada looks like one of the worst offenders already because of its tar sands?
Like most Canadians, I do not want a summer election – but I would also like to have a federal government that shows it is capable of rational thought.