Following the release of the Golden Report on transit financing, Evergreen CityWorks Executive Director John Brodhead comments on the report and the path forward
A few months back when Anne Golden and Paul Bedford were given the task of taking another look at the Investment Strategy that was released by Metrolinx this summer, many thought they faced the impossible task, trying to find some sort of consensus in a few short months among various interests and give the government a roadmap for how to move forward.
We will not find out right away how successful the Panel has been in laying that groundwork for action. Whether these recommendations will make the cut for the 2014 provincial budget remains to be seen (or whether that budget will even pass). That said, the Golden Report is a strong piece of work that brings us closer to the much needed action we need.
The key recommendation, that a new dedicated fund is needed to provide significant revenue for Metrolinx to build the Big Move, is buttressed by details on what tools should be used. Two options are presented:
- a 10 cent phased-in gas tax increase and a 0.5% corporate income tax increase; and,
- a 5 cent phased in gas tax increase, a 0.5% corporate income tax increase and a 0.5% HST increase.
The first option would raise $1.6 billion a year when fully implemented, the second, $1.8 billion. Both would provide the dedicated, independent revenue stream that will allow us to get beyond the stop-and-start project construction of the past 30 years. Option two appears more politically palatable at first glance as it spreads the costs across a broader public, but others may disagree. Nevertheless, the options are there.
Other key points from the report: allocating 25 percent of all new revenues to local projects (critical to bringing local agencies onside and building a regional system); a ‘kick-start’ fund to ensure the public sees tangible results when the new tools are brought into use; and the allocation of the tools across the province, with those outside the region going to other critical local infrastructure projects (ie roads and bridges, local transit, water, waste, etc).
The combination of the Metrolinx Investment Strategy and the Golden Report give the government (and critically, the opposition parties, which must agree for this to pass) many options which they can choose. It is now a communications and public engagement movement. This is where Move the GTHA, a collaboration of around 40 groups interested in moving forward on this issue can hopefully play a key role. We need to get the public engaged on this issue and fast. That is why last week we launched a campaign to provide information to nearly 500,000 residents of the region. Within roughly 24 hours, over 25,000 people had filled in our survey, and 2000 had signed CivicAction’s pledge for action on transit. And the organizations in the Move collaboration have been working tirelessly for months and even years to get people onside.
But we are just getting started. We will continue to provide information to an additional 300,000 residents in the next few weeks, and we will launch telephone-town halls that will reach another 250,000 people in January and February.
Metrolinx and the Golden Report have given us some clear options. It is now in our hands and the hands of our elected representatives.
The problem is well known. The solutions are in front of us. Now it is about will. It is time to act. Let’s move.