Metrolinx – Big Move or Big Sham?

Metrolinx releases its short list for “Reveune Tools”…and its not a pretty sight.

As you have read here on my blog and in the newspapers for the last few months, Metrolinx has been traveling around the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area (GTHA) or as I like to call it the Greater MILTON Area (GMA) asking people for their opinions on transit, what needs to be done and more importantly how to pay for it.

I was skeptical of this process from the beginning and my initial impressions have proven to be correct.  When this all started I said that the “revenue generating tools” list had already been predetermined and that the exercise of the BIG MOVE was a justification tour, paid for by taxpayers as Metrolinx is a provincially funded organization, and was set up to pave the way for tax increases and levies of all kinds.

Transit funding is what’s known as a slippery slope when it comes to government funding.  It never seems to be enough and the demands are always going to be higher than whats provided.  Once you start funding transit, there is no political will to take it away or make cuts.  Its exactly the opposite.  The political pressure is intense to keep funding and that’s something I have dealt with here locally over the last few years.  Do I think that transit is important?  Yes I do.

Provincial governments, both current and in the past, have kicked the can down the road when it comes to funding transit or looking at expanding it in the past.  That’s what put us in this position we are now faced with.  Its very easy to say these problems should have been addressed and these projects should have been started years ago.  The province needs to take some responsibility for the problems we are facing because there are so many examples, too many to list here, of waste.  Billions wasted in EHealth, power plant re-locations, OLG scandals and ORNGE over the last several years could have been used to fund these projects and we would be much further ahead than we are now.

That’s the past as I’m aware and now we have to deal with the future.

Getting back to the “process”, my suggestion to the BIG MOVE meetings was simple.  Lets look at these tools as options, but as a last resort.  The provincial government needs to come to the table to assist in funding these multiple transit projects.  The problem is that option isn’t on the table.

The estimations from the BIG MOVE has been that it will cost $2 billion per year for 25 years in order to fund these “much needed” transit projects but nowhere has there been an offer from the provincial government or a suggestion by the provincially run Metrolinx to suggest that the provincial government find savings within their current budget.

Here is the list of options Metrolinx released:

So outside the very vague headlines of “integrate transportation planning” and “maximize value of public infrastructure investment” there isn’t much else on the table except taxes.

Notice the list includes a number of taxation and levy options for the residents of Ontario.  Tax, tax, levy, tax, tax, fee…etc.

Of course they would include the obvious funding tool which is fare increases but the other options leave much to be desired.  For instance the fuel tax would essentially add on to the cost of travel for businesses and inevitably will be passed on to who? The consumer ie ME AND YOU!  What happens when the price of goods and services goes up? Inflation.

Another example is the sales tax.  The slippery slope for this is when it comes to budget time, its the easiest thing to raise.  But that doesn’t scare me as much as the property tax “suggestion” does.

In essence the provincial government can mandate municipalities to give a portion of their property taxes to go towards these projects.  This could mean a portion of Milton or the Region of Halton taxes will go to pay for transit in downtown Toronto.  Seeing how we are on the 25 year plus Metrolinx plan, is that really a good investment for us locally?  I have a huge problem with the fact that the province might mandate us as a municipality to raise property taxes.  THAT decision is made around the local council table, NOT at Queens Park.

As I mentioned earlier, Metrolinx had originally put Milton’s needs in the first stage of the multi year plan (up to 25 years)  but for some unknown reason and without much notice or fanfare, Milton was moved to the 25 year + plan.  The fastest growing municipality in Canada has been pretty much ignored in this first stage of this long term plan.  So in return for these wonderful ideas like property taxes, sales tax, fuel tax and payroll tax, Milton would see NO infrastructure changes in the BIG MOVE.

At one of the first sessions Metrolinx offered in Oakville, Regional Councillor Colin Best and I were in attendance and we happened to speak with one of Metrolinx’s executive to ask about land that’s available for a GO station to be located at Trafalgar Road which would help Milton in working towards all day GO service and providing more options for commuters.  Both of us were shocked when they had no clue about this location.  They were totally focused on “show” aspect of this meeting…getting justification from “user groups” to increase taxes and levies.

This process was more of a marketing exercise than a real discussion about transit and how we fund.  It seems to be following the growing trend of governments taxing first and asking questions later.  Taxes of any kind should be a last resort to fund these projects and not a first course of action.

The next thing for Metrolinx is to prepare this report to present to the provincial government in June but as Premier Wynne has already stated, she is in favour of these types of solutions which means there wont be any resistance to these proposals.

I agree that there are some hard decisions to be made when it comes to funding these transit needs and initiatives, but the BIG MOVE has lost me and many others when it comes to their suggestions.  That list was discussed at the first meeting and didn’t change very much over the course of their cross GTHA tour.  Which tells me “the fix was in.”

St Patricks Day Weekend

Yes, its St Patricks Day Weekend.  Blarney stones, green beer and jigs will be the order of the day this coming Sunday.  Lots of fun to be had by all but we should also remember to enjoy the celebration and party responsibly.

Here is an article from the Milton Canadian Champion about Halton Police’s plans this weekend.

http://www.insidehalton.com/community/milton/article/1593505

Halton police watching on St. Pat’s weekend

Halton police announced Friday they will be out in force on the lookout for impaired drivers during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend to ensure it is remembered for its festivities and nothing else.

Police are reminding residents to plan ahead if their evening is going to involve any amount of drinking.

Such planning can include assigning a designated driver, calling a cab or using public transportation.

Police said being prepared ahead of time is key to avoiding the temptation to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

The consequences of impaired driving are severe and can result in licence suspensions, vehicle impoundments, fines and even jail.

Police said those who drink and drive not only put themselves in danger, but their passengers and other motorists as well.

Residents who suspect a person is driving while impaired are asked to call 9-1-1 immediately.

The Halton Regional Police Service has stated it is committed to combating drinking and driving and keeping Halton’s roads safe.

Champion Editorial Comments on 3 Bag Limit

Unloading baggage

We fully support Halton Region’s plan to reduce the bi-weekly number of garbage bags residents will be able to place curbside before a user-pay system kicks in.

Next spring (April 1, 2013), residents will be provided with complimentary bag tags to affix to any garbage bags beyond their three-bag limit (currently residents enjoy a six-bag limit) they place at the curb on their regularly-scheduled waste collection day.

Five months later, on September 9, 2013, after having had ample opportunity to monitor and adjust their waste habits, residents will be asked to pay $2 for each tag they affix to garbage bags beyond the three-bag minimum.

There will be some exemptions granted, to those living in townhouses with common collection pile areas, those with diaper/medical condition-related waste as well as a two-week exemption for everyone immediately following the December holiday period.

While some municipalities have similar limits to free waste collection — Durham’s bi-weekly limit is three bags and Peel’s weekly limit is two bags — other municipalities — like Wellington (Guelph) — charge residents for every bag collected on garbage day.

We believe the Region’s tag concept is an incentive for Halton residents to be less wasteful and more thoughtful when deciding what should and shouldn’t get thrown out. The goal is to reduce the amount of Halton waste ending up in the landfill and, by doing so, extending the number of years before the landfill will be full. Regional staff say a three-bag limit could extend the landfill by as much as four years, creating an overall savings of $15 million.

Halton has been a leader in waste diversion among GTA municipalities with a rate of 57 per cent. That success is due, in part, to 85 per cent of homes already placing three garbage bags or less to the curb.

Only five per cent of Halton homes don’t participate in the Blue Box program each week, while 70 per cent of residents have been regular users of GreenCart since its Halton launch in mid-2008.

In order to help Halton homeowners reduce their waste, the Region is also planning to expand its Blue Box program to include mixed plastics like clear clamshells and yogurt and pudding cups, empty steel paint cans and cardboard spiral cans, which are commonly used for products such as refrigerated dough, frozen juices, chips, nuts and other snacks, powdered drink mixes and baby formula, shortening and powdered cleansers.

With this boost to the Blue Box program will come a larger 22-gallon container to hold the additional recyclable items.

Hopefully these initiatives will convince more of us to divert our waste and maintain Halton’s place among the greenest communities in the GTA.

Milton Town Council Meeting July 16, 2012

The next meeting of Milton Town Council is on Monday July 16, 2012 starting at 7pm at Milton Town Hall.

The governing body of the Town of Milton is Town Council, consisting of the Mayor and 10 Councillors who represent Milton’s eight wards.  Milton residents elect members of Council for a four-year term of office.  You can find a link to watch the Town Council meetings here.  The meetings are also broadcast on TV Cogeco (Channel 14).

Town Council deals with:

  • Matters requiring policy direction
  • By-laws or by-law amendments
  • Responses or actions to pertinent issues

Council also makes decisions on the recommendations of Milton’s two Standing Committees of Council:

  • Administration & Planning Committee
  • Community Services Committee

The link to the agenda can be found here.

Some of the highlites in the agenda are as follows:

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me mike@mikecluett.ca You can also go to the Watch Online link on my page to view from the comfort of your home.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Optimist Walk In The Park

Happy Fathers Day everyone!  I hope all the Dads, Grand Dad’s the Dad’s to be had a great time on Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday, it was the first annual Optimist Club Walk in the Park in Milton and it was a great success.  Many people came out to enjoy the great weather and the fun activities as well.  There was some cricket for those willing to try…tougher than it looks folks…some great races for the kids, playground and splash pad as well as one of the newest Toronto Blue Jay (and Milton’s own) Nathan DaSousa was on hand to toss the ball around and help kids with some baseball skills.  Councillors Colin Best and Rick Di Lorenzo also attended and had a great time.

Many thanks to the organizers of the event (Kim, Joanne, Steve, Angelo et all) for putting on a great time for the kids AND the Dad’s as well.  Looking forward to next year being even bigger!