Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Wanted: A party for the urban Ontario voter

By: Metro Published on Mon May 12 2014

For those of us who live in cities and care about the things that matter to cities, it’s hard to get excited about the Ontario election. On urban issues like transit, housing, and climate change, there’s really not much to like about any of the three leading parties trying to earn our votes on June 12.

The Ontario Liberals talk a good game about building transit, but talking is just about all they know how to do. They’ve spent years talking about the Big Move and revenue tools, but their record is spotty, with too many project delays, unnecessary changes and expert panels that go nowhere.

It’s enough to make an urban voter want to support change at Queen’s Park. But what are the alternatives?

Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are an obvious no-go, if only because they’ve openly talked about cancelling light rail in Hamilton and building a highway instead. Add that to concern that Hudak’s plan to cut public service jobs could force already-stretched Ontario municipalities to make deep cuts and there are just too many red flags.

The Ontario NDP, meanwhile, would seem to be best-suited to embrace urban issues, but instead they’ve veered toward a brand of milquetoast populism.

They pledge to take the HST off gas prices and make it cheaper to heat homes. On transit, Andrea Horwath’s platform says nothing about the Big Move or Metrolinx but instead commits to a fare freeze — something that wouldn’t do anything to address the issue of overcrowding we face in Toronto.

None of it is very inspiring, and it’s enough to make me long for a provincial party that actually speaks to issues that matter to Ontario’s increasing population of city-dwellers.

A party like that would understand that our municipalities face a crushing infrastructure deficit with so many things that need to be built or repaired, but they’d also get that building and repairing those things is the most foolproof way to create jobs.

A party focused on urban issues would understand the importance of affordable housing as a means toward both lifting people out of poverty and reducing congestion, because people will be able to get to work more quickly when they can afford to live close to it.

And an urban issues party wouldn’t be blind to the threat posed by climate change, and would probably recognize that we can invest in solutions now or pay more for storm clean-up later on. I could go on, but why bother? A trustworthy provincial party with those views hasn’t shown itself to exist.

Is there any chance one shows up before election day? It’s hard to be optimistic, but I’ll tell you this: They would get my vote.

This post was originally published at on 2014-05-12T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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