Biggest city gets rail line - and not much
Published: February 27, 2008
Source: Globe & Mail - OMAR EL AKKAD AND JEFF GRAY With a
report from Marjan Farahbaksh
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OTTAWA, TORONTO -- Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave an odd
gift to Torontonians in the federal budget presented yesterday: the
resuscitation of a rail line between Peterborough and Union Station that
passes through the minister's own riding.
The rail link's re-establishment - part of a $500-million national
investment in public transit infrastructure - marked one of the very few
times Canada's biggest city warranted a mention in the budget.
Indeed, the only other substantive mention of Toronto appears to be its
inclusion in a $110-million pilot project on homelessness and mental
Toronto Mayor David Miller slammed the federal budget yesterday as a
"missed opportunity" that neglects Canada's largest city.
"As far as I can tell, Toronto is mentioned twice. At the end of a
Peterborough-to-Toronto-rail link, and for a pilot project in housing.
You know, that doesn't befit a nation that's going to succeed in a
21st-century economy," Mr. Miller told reporters at city hall.
The old Peterborough-Toronto line ran across the northern end of Whitby-Oshawa,
Mr. Flaherty's riding.
The Conservative government did make some overtures to Canada's big
cities, one of the most notable being a move to make the slice of the
federal gas tax shared with cities permanent.
Mr. Miller praised the move, which will see $2-billion in funds
distributed across the country in 2009-2010, with about $160-million of
that headed for Toronto. And he had muted praise for the pilot project
for housing the mentally ill mentioned in the budget.
But the mayor said more of the federal government's surplus should have
been reinvested back into cities and especially Toronto, which is
looking for Ottawa to support its plans to build $6-billion worth of
light-rail lines to combat traffic congestion and pollution. He said the
city is responsible for 10 per cent of the country's economy, and
deserves more attention.
He also said the budget failed to make any significant strides on
fighting climate change, an issue he argues cities have been left to
address on their own.
"It's the greatest threat facing our generation. Cities are acting.
We're acting without waiting for the federal government."
Mr. Miller also defended his "one cent now" campaign, which has so far
failed in its attempt to get Ottawa to hand over a percentage of the GST
to cities. He said the lobbying was partly responsible for the
government's move to make the gas tax funding to cities permanent, a
move endorsed in an all-party parliamentary vote.