Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Olivia Chow and other would-be mayors should stick with current transit plans

By: Metro Canada Published on Fri Mar 15 2013

So is it safe to say that Olivia Chow will run for mayor of Toronto in 2014?

Last week — days before the CBC aired a biopic about her late husband — Chow told CBC host George Stroumboulopoulos that she was open to the idea of running in 2014. It makes sense that she'd be leaning that way. Virtually every hypothetical mayoral poll shows her taking Mayor Rob Ford's job without even breaking a sweat. Unless the political climate shifts a lot and Ford finds a way to stay away from controversial headlines, a 2014 Chow for Mayor bid would be less a political race and more a straight-up coronation.

Which is pretty good news for those that are tired of Ford-brand politics. Chow is a progressive, city-loving, bike-riding type. She should be like a breath of fresh air.

But what else will she be? While there's a lot to like about Chow in terms of electability, we're short on details as to what her platform might include.

It's too early in the game to start criticizing hypothetical policies, especially based on a single town hall, but I think it's fair to say that the last thing we need in 2014 is yet another retread of the does-Scarborough-deserve-subways saga. The fact will always be that nobody deserves subways. The presence of underground transit isn't some badge of honour that neighbourhoods get to affix to their lapel. Subways are a public utility like any other — we should only build them where there's a demonstrated need and where ridership (and density) ensures we won't be throwing money away running empty trains.

In fact, let's make it even clearer. There's no need for Chow or any hypothetical mayoral candidate in 2014 to all bring in an all-new vision for Toronto transit, with pretty lines on maps drawn every which way. This city has upturned the apple cart on transit planning more than enough times over the last few years — and each time we do, the province delays their funding commitment by another year or two.

Enough with that.

Any serious candidate for the city's top job should instead just sum up their transit platform like this: build the downtown relief line. ASAP. Do whatever it takes. And then find a way to adequately fund service.

In other words, on transit, Chow — and anyone else who might want to step up and take Ford's job — should keep it simple. No empty populist rhetoric. No notion that everyone gets a subway to call their own. Stick with existing plans, and make sure you've got a strategy to get (and keep) shovels in the ground.

I'll vote for that.

This post was originally published at on 2013-03-15T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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