Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Hitting the right notes on transit, Kathleen Wynne deserves a chance to lead

By: Metro Canada Published on Thu Jan 31 2013

Well, she did it.

A few months back, I wrote that it was time Ontario had an urban premier . A premier who understood Toronto. Someone who was unafraid to admit that, hey, according to the stats, Toronto is a huge part of Ontario's economy and social fabric — a part that can't be ignored, downplayed or removed.

We got that on Saturday with the ascension of Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne, who bested all others to win at the Ontario Liberal Leadership convention. She is, at the moment, the designated next Premier for the Province of Ontario.

We'll see how long it lasts.

Things could very easily fall apart. Forced to carry a ton of lingering political baggage, Wynne could find herself swept aside if opposition parties decide to turf the minority government Liberals and call for a spring election. They've certainly got enough justification to do just that. With gas plant scandals, a lousy labour deal with Ontario's teachers and a number of other past gaffes, the Liberal Party isn't looking all that good these days.

But I hope Wynne gets a chance to govern. Not only because she represents the first modern opportunity we've had to have a leader in Queen's Park who seems to really understand — and respect — the needs of Toronto, but also because she might be the right person to navigate the GTA through what will be a very high stakes battle fought over transportation and transit funding.

So far, Wynne has hit all the right notes on the transit file. She's told reporters that it's a major priority. She's emphasized that future expansion of our transportation system simply cannot happen without major investment. And she's said that that investment simply cannot come without new government revenue tools. Call them tolls, call them taxes — it doesn't matter. The inescapable truth is that governments cannot deal with today's massive transportation issues with existing revenues.

That's the reality.

But some politicians seem intent on ignoring it. They'll fight tooth and nail against any kind of revenue tool that might actually deliver transit funding. They'll attempt to sell voters on the idea that we can fund transit merely by finding efficiencies within existing budgets or by looking to the private sector, who are apparently just hanging around waiting to devote billions towards public works. Their ideas won't be based on real evidence, but they may seem kind of compelling — they'll be the ones promising no new taxes, after all.

But they'll be wrong. Within the next few years, the GTA faces a critical, unavoidable choice: either we make hard decisions and invest in transportation infrastructure that can keep us moving, or we spend years chasing the impossible. Either the GTA moves, or it doesn't.

It's early days still, but premier Wynne appears to be on the right side of the issue. And, given the other voices in this conversation — both provincially and municipally — , that's not worth throwing away.

Wynne deserves a chance to govern. And, on transit funding, a chance to lead.

This post was originally published at on 2013-01-31T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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