Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Enough with the TTC funding fairy tales

By: Metro Toronto Published on Mon Oct 15 2012

Let’s keep this simple. To build the transit network we need in the Greater Toronto Area, governments are going to have to increase revenues via the taxpayer. That means things like road tolls, parking fees and sales taxes.

Most people these days accept that reality. Recently we’ve seen campaigns from leaders like John Tory and the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson and a gaggle of local planners and councillors, all seemingly united on the issue of necessary transit funding.

But some politicians refuse to get it. They keep trying to sell us on alternative ideas: transit funding fairy tales.

Look at Mayor Rob Ford, whose executive committee last week considered a staff report from Toronto’s CFO that laid out a variety of potential revenue drivers that could pay for transit expansion. Ford, after voting to move forward with consultation, told reporters he doesn’t support any of them and would not vote for new taxes to pay for transit.

Instead, he wants us to look at public-private partnerships, or “P3s.” Both the mayor and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, are fond of pointing to the private sector as the solution to our transit funding woes. They believe that there are private companies out there willing to put up funds to pay for subways in Toronto.

They’ve got zero evidence to back them up.

That CFO report on transit funding? It spells things out explicitly: “P3s are a ‘project delivery mechanism’ intended to reduce cost and improve delivery timelines, not a source of funding.” In other words, these arrangements can reduce the overall cost of a project — that’s why the province plans to use them for any transit it helps build in the GTA — but they don’t make funds materialize from nowhere. They’re not magic.

You’d expect self-described fiscal realists like the Ford Brothers to understand this. But they’re not alone.

Also last week, the man who very well could be the next premier of Ontario, Tim Hudak, laid out a transportation strategy. In it, he followed the Fords in downplaying the idea of things like road tolls, instead suggesting only that a PC government would “when money’s available, build subways.”

You read that right: “when money’s available.”

Given that the entirety of the “Big Move” transportation strategy needed to keep commutes in the GTA under control is set to cost at least $50 billion, it’s not entirely clear how Hudak and the Fords expect that kind of money to become “available.”

Maybe they’re hoping the GTA has an elderly great aunt set to leave the region a generous inheritance. Or that we’ll find an oil patch under the construction at Union Station.

Or maybe they’re just telling us fairy tales.

This post was originally published at on 2012-10-15T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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