Metrolinx: The Big Move (3) Investment Strategy

The Metrolinx Investment Strategy (Draft) is a really odd collection of documents, and as I look at the presentations, I can’t help feeling there is a mountain of background somewhere that Metrolinx would prefer to keep out of sight.

On the agenda of September’s Board Meeting, we find a glossy brochure that is clearly intended for the coming public review.  For a “draft”, it has the look of something rather final to me.  With a section titled “Your voice matters”, this is not intended for the Board’s consumption, but for the process that Metrolinx calls public consultation.

Worth noting are Rob MacIsaac’s own remarks at last Tuesday’s briefings.  On at least two occasions, he said that there won’t be much pressure for change in the plans based on the extensive consultations to date.  He is prejudging the outcome, and that’s no way to ask for public input.

The separate presentation to the Board is not available online, but I have reformatted it on my own site.  (Note to the purists:  most of this was scanned as text and then cleaned up to avoid problems with blurry copy-of-copy scanning.)

Draft Investment Strategy Presentation September 26, 2008

The heart of this “strategy” is to do next to nothing about proper transit funding for many years (at least one if not two election cycles), and to live off of the previously announced $11.6-billion MoveOntario money.  A subset of the projects in the 15-year draft Regional Transportation Plan was selected to soak up this money, and if the Tooth Fairy is feeling generous, we might even get another $6-billion from Ottawa to stave off actually making a decision about transit funding for almost a decade.

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Metrolinx: Too Many Fingers in the Pie (2)

The Metrolinx Board met on September 26, and I am pleased to report that Board members bit hard into a proposal to establish a complex process for project approval and procurement.  (See “Project Management and Delivery” in this report.)

Chair Roger Anderson (Durham Region), already in a feisty mood over omissions in the Draft Regional Transportation Plan, led off by noting that a major policy decision was buried in an “Information Report”, the CEO’s monthly status update.  He discovered this scheme when he read his meeting agenda at 1am, and clearly he was not amused.  Even more clearly, this whole idea had not been discussed at all by the Board even in private session.

Anderson moved to defer the item to a future meeting, and this triggered concerns by Rob MacIsaac, chairing the meeting.  Watching him in action, it’s obvious that he doesn’t like to lose votes, but as the debate went on, it was clear that Anderson was not alone, and MacIsaac wisely got out in front of his troops to lead them where they were already headed.

A common thread in remarks by Anderson, Mayor David Miller (Toronto) and Mayor Hazel McCallion (Mississauga), among others, was whether Metrolinx exists to work with the municipalities as a regional agency, or as a provincial overseer interfering with and dictating to local bodies.  Anderson noted that municipalities have the staff to design, manage and deliver projects, and that they should not have to fight Metrolinx to get things done.

Michael Fenn, Metrolinx CEO and author of the report, replied that Queen’s Park, through the Ministry of Transportation, has a role in project evaluation.  If so, I must ask whether Metrolinx is simply providing cover for MTO interference, and what role, exactly, is expected of a Board composed of leaders of the very municipalities that originate most of the transportation plans.

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