Let’s call it what it is: betrayal.
There’s no better word to describe Premier Kathleen Wynne’s announcement that she will deny Toronto the right to put road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.
It’s a betrayal of her supposed progressive urbanist politics. It’s a betrayal of Toronto’s autonomy. And it’s a betrayal of trust.
Even if you personally hate road tolls, the case for denying Toronto the right to use them doesn’t exist. The City of Toronto owns both highways. As such, Toronto is solely responsible for maintaining them – a job that will cost billions over the next couple of decades.
The plan to toll these roads to pay for their maintenance and other city infrastructure needs was put forward by Mayor John Tory, the duly-elected leader of this city. It was then supported by a very solid majority of the duly-elected Toronto City Council.
And, until Friday, the premier had given no real indication that she would oppose the city’s efforts.
“If Mayor Tory and his council determine that they would like to embark on a tolling of certain roads — local roads in the city of Toronto — then we will work with them,” Wynne said in December.
As a result, people in the mayor’s office tell me they feel blindsided and disappointed. When Mayor John Tory spoke to the media, he was as angry and frustrated as I’ve ever seen him.
I don’t blame the guy. The premier couldn’t even offer a good reason for blocking Tory’s toll plan.
The best Wynne could do was to suggest it’s not appropriate to start tolling highways until better transit options are in place. But while that reasoning may justify a delay in implementation – timing the introduction of tolls to coincide with an increase in GO service, for example – it’s no reason to slam the brakes on the whole idea.
Sure, Wynne did announce she would increase the municipal share of the provincial gas tax as an alternative to tolls. But the gas tax represents a much less stable source of revenue for Toronto – one subject to the whim of future premiers.
And the gas tax share merely repurposes existing revenue, leaving me to wonder what programs or promises are being cut to pay for this move.
Answers and explanations aren’t forthcoming.
Instead, everything about this looks nakedly political, and geared toward boosting Wynne’s fortunes in next year’s provincial campaign.
The autonomy and financial health of Ontario’s largest city appear to be no more than collateral damage on Wynne’s attempted road to re-election.
I hope it was worth it. This craven appeal may well earn Wynne and her Liberals some votes, but they have lost any hope of getting mine.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/torys-toronto-matt-elliott/2017/01/27/kathleen-wynne-betrays-toronto-john-tory-road-tolls.html on 2017-01-27T00:00:00.000Z