Michael Ignatieff on Transit (Updated)

Updated:  Michael Ignatieff was on CBC’s Metro Morning yesterday (March 23) but, alas, the interview was not deemed worthy of a podcast.  Please see the comment from “Ed” dated today for a precis.  It appears that Ignatieff is still out of touch with the details of what Toronto actually needs.

Over the weekend, I received news from Michael Ignatieff’s “Town Hall” meeting in Halifax.  (For the benefit of foreign readers, Ignatieff is now the Leader of the Opposition in Ottawa, the Liberal Party.) 

Marcus Garnet sent an email to a Transport 2000 list, and this found its way to me.  Below are extracts.

Here in Halifax, his short introductory speech emphasized the “infrastructure deficit”, citing highways and bridges as well as an “energy corridor”, tidal power, university facilities, childcare and other priorities.  An earlier CBC item also mentioned electric cars.  Neither CBC nor Mr. Ignatieff’s introductory speech mentioned public transit or rail infrastructure.

Mr. Ignatieff cited three key criteria for infrastructure funding for which his party plans to hold the government responsible:  (1) Does it protect the vulnerable?  (2) How fast can we get the infrastructure in the ground to create jobs?  (3) Will it lead to a more productive and competitive position after the economic crisis has passed?  He especially emphasized the last point, and said that private entrepreneurs are the real risk-takers and drive the economy.

Several questions later, someone from the Ecology Action Centre asked how public transit, railways and other environmental concepts like community agriculture would fit in with his priorities.  The question also specifically asked about shifting freight from trucks to rail.

At this point, Mr. Ignatieff seemed to change his tone from an upbeat, together-we-can-do-it mood to a cautious, fiscally conservative stance.  He reminded us all that we are in a deficit and must watch our spending.  He said that he must be careful not to agree to everything people suggest, and that his group must make some “tough choices”, be honest and keep focused.  He said he likes trains and uses them, and that his grandfather worked for the railway, but that we must choose between things like trains and childcare.

Natalie Litwin, President of T2000 Ontario, sent an email to the Liberal Party including:

Mr. Ignatieff appears to be unaware that transportation contributes one-third of our greenhouse gases. Also, does he know that traffic congestion in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area (Canada’s growth engine) causes losses of $2 billion a year to the province’s economy?

Ontario is in desparate need of federal funding to get the Greater Toronto/Hamilton regional transportation plan started – the plans are there and funding from the province has started, but federal money is badly needed.

All across our country as well as in the U.S., it is widely recognized that urban and regional transit is desparately needed to help urban economies and environments and that investing in that infrastructure is one of the best investments to make at a time of economic crisis.

I’m glad to hear that Ignatieff’s grandfather worked for the railway, but that’s hardly a basis for public policy.  The distinction that seems to be missing in all of this is between two fundamentally different types of spending.

  • Short-term spending as an economic stimulus during the recession.
  • Long-term, ongoing spending built into every year’s budget on various forms of public transportation including both capital and operating support.

Today’s Globe and Mail included an editorial Long term value, not make-work which argues that money spent on economic stimulus must yield lasting, valuable results.  In that vein, the Globe cautioned against investing in megaprojects such as the proposed high-speed rail corridor when there are so many other crying needs for investment in rail passenger facilities that could benefit the whole country.  High-speed rail is a long-term project with benefits, to be sure, but it won’t do anything for short-term stimulus, and it will do nothing for people who don’t travel between the handful of cities it will serve.

Ignatieff’s contrast of trains and child care is totally off base.  Much of the call for increased support of passsenger rail (high speed or otherwise) addresses capital costs be they for increased line capacity (more track, better signals) and vehicles.  The same applies to urban systems where infrastructure and vehicles are at the top of many shopping lists.

Child care is overwhelmingly an ongoing operating budget question.  Can we pay enough money to attract child care workers?  Will a centre opened with much fanfare by one government be closed by the next?

On environmental issues, Ignatieff seems unwilling to grasp the link between increased travel by public transit, especially surface systems (bus, LRT, commuter and intercity rail) and energy savings.  Moreover, better transit reduces the need for cars, improves mobility and allows access to jobs, shopping and recreation for a broad population.

I am particularly distressed by Ignatieff’s comments about “risk taking” in the private sector.  What this usually means is that the public sector backs any investment and guarantees a return.  In the worst case scenario, the private sector gets to control the asset and its revenue stream.  We have seen this on highway 407 where, just recently, tolls were raised to discourage traffic so that remaining users wouldn’t be stuck in traffic jams.  This is certainly a novel approach to demand management, but it works only because there are other alternative routes.

The Liberal Party is not known for having a coherent platform, but if they are going to exploit their newfound popularity, they need to learn how policies in various areas fit together.  They need to talk about prudence in spending stimulus dollars on megaprojects that won’t bear fruit for years, but remember the huge infrastructure deficit that needs to be addressed across the country.

Part of that deficit is in public transit, broadly speaking, and we deserve better from the Liberals than an ill-informed dismissal of the issue.

[Postscript:  Lest you think I am enamoured of the other parties, well the Tories to me don’t even care if cities exist, except possibly in Alberta; the NDP always manages to propose spending that, at the end of the day, doesn’t begin to address the real needs of transit systems; the Greens simply dilute the left wing vote, wherever it may go, and help keep the Tories in power.  There, I am sure that should drive the comment rate through the roof for a week or so!]

29 thoughts on “Michael Ignatieff on Transit (Updated)

  1. Steve

    Let first coment on the Postcript. Rarely have I seen such an accurate analysis.

    We need rejuvinated intercity rail. The Federal Government has not done that. We need properly funded urban transit. No level of government has done that. Let’s get going.


  2. I found your comment on the Globe’s editorial to be disingenuous. Your comments suggest that the Globe thinks high speed rail is equivalent to a “make-work” project.

    As best I can tell, the Globe was arguing against high speed rail as a stimulus initiative based on the “shovels in the ground” criterion, which makes sense, since indeed a lot of design work has to be completed before the shovels will hit the ground. But they don’t disqualify it on the grounds that it will not create long term economic value:

    “That does not mean it should be discounted – Canada remains the only G-8 country without high-speed rail service – but only that advocates of improved rail service should also turn some of their focus to immediate upgrades.

    Nothing is said about how other rail projects could benefit “the whole country”. In fact, the Globe never insinuates that high speed rail would not benefit a large portion of the population. The Globe doesn’t mention this, but to my knowledge, proposals for the Windsor – Quebec corridor would cover approximately half of Canada’s population, and if you think there are not many people traveling between cities, then take another look at the 401.

    I don’t really care too much about the parties, to be honest, but I would like to know what your opinion is of high speed rail. It seems from this post that it’s not so high on your priority list, but please enlighten us so we can know at least where you’re coming from.

    Steve: I view high speed rail very much the same way I view subway and ICTS proposals in Toronto. We have an intercity passenger rail system that’s a joke, and rather than improving on this, we are asked to spend billions on a miraculous new system. Via could probably do wonders with just the interest on the investment needed to build a high speed corridor.

    We never see the two options compared side by side, just as in Toronto we were denied for decades a proper comparison of transit modes based on what is actually needed in various corridors.

    Have you noticed how the carpet baggers are already clammouring for a piece of the infrastructure money on projects they could never get funded any other way?

    People look longingly at the TGV and its relatives in Europe, but they ignore the fact that Europe had a mature passenger system to start with and train travel was well-established. There is so much we could do, and not just in the Quebec-Windsor corridor, but it would not cost billions and there wouldn’t be anywhere near as much to be made from engineering, construction, vehicle procurement and maintenance contracts.


  3. As a Liberal member, I certainly can say I have more faith in Iggy to solve our problems then in Steve.

    The issue, however, is that where we lack our money is in funding the operation of transit – this has traditionally been a provincial, and not federal juridistiction.

    Steve: So why did the Feds give money to the VCC subway? Why did they fund the Canada line in Vancouver? Why did they dedicate part of the gas tax for urban transit? I wouldn’t mind if Ottawa simply said “not my job” and walked away from transit, but they put money in when it suits them politically. Iggy can’t have it both ways.


  4. Auto-dependency is unsustainable in the long run (as is truck-dependency for moving goods). It doesn’t really matter who’s running Ottawa (or Queen’s Park) when the tipping point hits, it will hit. A pro-active government could mitigate the damage, but eventually, regardless of ideology, rubber tires on asphalt and the entire societal structure we’ve built around them are going to fail and steel wheels on steel rails are going to be needed in quantity.

    The truly disappointing thing is that a seemingly intelligent guy like Ignatieff can’t or won’t grasp the connection between rail transportation and sustainable development.


  5. A bit shocking to see Iggy’s response to Transit at that town hall.

    I think it is important to note though that when he was running for the Liberal leadership a couple of years back, he advocated for a $10B/10 year public transit fund for Canadian municipalities. So the concern is there… but not sure why he hasn’t communicated it this time around…


  6. If the extracts I’m reading here are *any* indication of what Misha’s actually thinking, then public mass transit is going to have a slow, bumpy ride across this country regardless of who occupies the centre seat. In the volatile economic and political atmosphere we’re experiencing, what occurs to me is that those of us who believe in the value proposition public mass transit investment offers to our cities need to explain its spinoff benefits and its strategic implications to our MPs, irrespective of their affiliations,* and more importantly to put their boots on the ground (to yest’, on our Queen Cars, C-Trains, and Expo Lines) so that they understand from first-hand experience the successes and the challenges our metro, LRT, and tram systems undergo every day.


  7. Sadly I think Mr. Ignatieff’s comments reinforce the impression that our political elite are out of touch with the electorate and even more importantly reality.

    Our infrastructure needs are simple, build economic and environmentally sound solutions for today. Not massive projects with plenty of fan-fare opportunities that won’t be completed for decades.

    The last thing we need is to be saddled with the present and planned “white elephants” such as Blue-22 (the creature that will not die), VCC subway extension, SRT/ICTS and for you high-speed train fans the infamous United Aircraft Turbo. (And based upon current reports you can add the Vancouver Olympics to the list.)

    Steve you’ve hit one out of park, sadly it’s the Skydome built with public money and sold to Ted Rogers for a song!


  8. Michael Ignatieff, is going to destroy any hope for public transit in the future. “Iggy” (I prefer a very rude nickname but will keep it clean.) is going to bend over to the auto sector by building an insane amout of freeways in the name of the economy. Building freeways will create jobs in the short term, and will entice people to buy cars, but what about the future? We will be back to square one when the economy rebounds with $1.50+ litre fuel, and people ditching their cars for transit that has become a service standard for the poor.

    The auto sector is important to some people, but I would rather drop $110 on a metropass and save money to pay off my morgage a little faster. This is economics 101, you can shell out $400 on a 407 bill every month to help a small portion (No portion in my view, becuase hardly anyone works for the 407) of the economy, or shell out $400 on disposible income on things that is made in Ontario.

    Where was Iggy, for a certain number of years? If memory serves me right he wasn’t even in Canada. By the looks of things he has been reading the Robert Moses’ book of crappy city building polices. (Yeah I said it, and that’s what were going to get.) Bailing out a sector that was mismanaged and made cars that no one with any fiscal sense would own is a horrible mistake. You want free enterprise ok, you fail no bail. Too bad for all the lost jobs, but we will adapt.

    I am a card carrying member of the conservative party and Stephen Harper is not immune to my criticisms of his polices. First the bail out of the auto sector. Secondly not contributing to help with capital expeditures in public transit.

    You want people to shell out more money in the economy, help build a good transit system, where owning a car is not needed. One of my family members’ car bills is in excess of $900 a month, not including parking and car note! The reason he drives from Newmarket to downtown is becuase his start time at work doesn’t match the Go transit timetable. Some people do start work at five in the morning at the bank towers, and he is a banker.

    Where I am going with this, is the more money we can save off of the car, the more we can spend on other things and keep the economy afloat at the doemstic level. That alone is worth the investments, why the poltical right wing don’t view this as such is very discouraging.

    We do need high speed rail, but as you said Steve, let’s build a network of VIA trains that run at least hourly. We can do that for a small sum of money. Regular passenger rail is cheap to build and maintain, so what’s stopping us? Political will? God I want to get into politics and do the right thing here, (no pun intended) does the true common sense revoultion sound like a good slogan or does it have too much negative stigma? CHEERS!


  9. I suspect Ignatieff was tailoring his speech to his audience. If he was speaking in Toronto he would talk more about transit and less about tidal power.

    He probably isn’t enthusiastic about a massive expansion of freight rail (although perhaps he should), but hopefully realizes the importance of public transit.

    Steve: I didn’t reproduce all of the comments about the meeting, but it was quite clear that Ignatieff was being very cool to spending on transit. I can understand tailoring the message to the audience in one’s introductory remarks, but not when there is a direct question from the floor on an issue.


  10. What do you expect from Fiberals anyway? I agree with Matthew Kemp’s point: the Fiberals, provincial or federal, have done nothing useful to the quest of better Public Transit and instead have been pushing their own projects, as evidenced by the Sorbara Line. For some reason, I find the Sorbara Line seems to be getting more priority than the Richmond Hill extension, could this be because the Conservatives hold the Thornhill and Richmond Hill ridings?

    The Federal Conservatives have done much more than their Liberal opposition in the sense that there are more actions rather than words. The only problem is that the Fiberals appear to be blocking Conservative efforts to improve public transit. From what I hear, the Conservatives plans to increase funding for transit were blocked by the Liberals insistent on funding the Sorbara Line first before anything else. Had the Conservatives received a majority government in the last election, Transit City would likely be closer to being reality and the TTC would receive more operational funding through new tax rules. Instead, we are getting a subway line to the middle of nowhere in Sorbara’s backyard. Transit city will be forced on the backburner in light of today’s economy.

    The NDP are no better, they only support the Sorbara Line on the premise that it creates construction jobs, no matter about the cost of the line or the fact that the terminus will end up in a wheat field.

    The Conservatives want to provide stable funding for Public Transit and have a bold plan to do it. Too bad the Fiberals and the NDP are too stupid to see it and help the Conservatives implement it. You reap what you sow.

    Steve: I have never forgiven Bob Rae for swallowing, hook, line and sinker, the Peterson transit plan (a subway in every pot) without change. All the NDP cared about was job creation, and expensive construction industry jobs at that. Whether what they would build was actually justified in comparison with alternatives was never discussed.

    Some habits die hard.


  11. This is not a political forum so this may not even get posted.

    My problem with the Liberals on any front is that their desire to please everyone and hence ensure their future electoral success means that a little gets done on a lot of things and over the long term essentially nothing gets done to completion. Unfortunately our electoral system has basically become a popularity contest with the media being sucked in as essentially free spokesmen.

    Convincing the residents of Brockville that they need to pay higher taxes to support expansion of GTA transit will be a hard sell but I think it will eventually come down to that if the politicians in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park are going to continually pass the ball back and forth.

    Steve: The issue for citizens of Brockville is not that “their” tax dollars go to support Toronto’s transit, but that everyone’s taxes from cities end up disproportionately elsewhere in the country. Far more tax is extracted from the GTAH than we get back.


  12. Steve: The issue for citizens of Brockville is not that “their” tax dollars go to support Toronto’s transit, but that everyone’s taxes from cities end up disproportionately elsewhere in the country. Far more tax is extracted from the GTAH than we get back.

    Fair enough Steve, I don’t disagree. You will however have a hard time convincing small town taxpayers all over the land of this fact. The “quality of life” Canadians are accustomed to has become a “right” no matter where they are located – and all the smaller municipalities need tax money from larger cities to maintain this standard. I’m not sure what the answer is – short of moving everyone into the large urban centers.

    Maybe we suffer a problem of having far too many people living their entire lives either in small, rural centers or larger urban ones – but not spending significant time (say at least ten years) immersed in both of them over the course of a lifetime to gain a respect of what both sides really require in terms of funding.

    I will reiterate however that if it comes down to hospitals closing altogether somewhere in northern Ontario, followed by a news story on glistening new GTA transit infrastructure with a price tag of “x” fed/prov dollars … there will be howling.


  13. I do not have a problem with the fact that the GTAH has its tax dollars redistributed elsewhere. It happens everywhere. The problem I have is the out-of-control spending issues over at Toronto. With what is being reported from Toronto regarding expensive Union contracts and council pay raises, it is no wonder that Brockville citizens will have problems when spending is earmarked for the GTAH. If the folks at City Council can do their part to cut costs (whether it be big but unnecessary projects, union spending, or even if it is symbolic), their argument that too much of GTAH tax dollars are being diverted to Brockville may bear more fruit. But right now, do not expect Brockville to have any pity. And remember that small towns like Brockville are usually Conservative bastions. Conservatives will tend to listen to those MPs more than the Fiberal MPs from Toronto and other urban centres (with the exception of Western Canada). If Brockville convinces the Conservatives that the GTAH is spending too much of Brockville’s money, expect the Conservatives to listen. The only way that Toronto could have gotten its voice heard on these issues is if they had voted Conservative. As of right now, I don’t have much optimism for the budget next week in terms of Toronto Transit. There are a lot of goodies that I would like, but I think hoping for a miracle for Transit is a longshot. Again, you reap what you sow.

    Steve: I hope that the good citizens of Brockville will make their displeasure known at the money wasted on proposed capital projects like the VCC subway. Meanwhile, if you want to complain about the high cost of construction, you have only to look to the private sector where all of that work is actually done. There is (or was until quite recently) a nation-wide competition for skilled trades and other specialities thanks to the oil boom, and residential condo construction, fuelled by rampant speculation and leveraged investment, drove up local construction costs. When we look at $300-million/km subway lines, that’s part of the equation, and that’s almost all private sector.

    Maybe you should propose legislation forcing the trades to roll back their wages and increase their hours as a matter of national urgency. I’m sure this would be extremely popular among “conservatives”, but would show the blue collar red neck voters just who really runs this country — not them.

    As for Toronto, yes, we signed contracts that had rolling 3% increases in them with various groups. The same level of increases were given to many good Tory 905 workers too.

    If you want to pick on the public sector generally, then you have to stop assuming that Toronto is the root of all evil, and if only we could amalgamate the City with, oh, Collingwood, prosperity would return, there would be chickens in every pot, and all would be well in the body politic.

    We were forced into the 416 amalgamation for exactly this purpose — let the suburbs take control of that pesky City and all it NDPers — but it didn’t work out that way. After a few terms of Mel the Incompetent, voters turned to a different type of Mayor. You may think his policies are irresponsible, but that word really belongs with MegaMel.

    Toronto is fed up with people who think they can pillage our city for revenue, and blame the stinginess with which they return our own money on our profligacy. Find a new record, the old one is broken.


  14. You’re missing the point. All this is part of the word I like to use regularly, and that is PERCEPTION. Increasing union wages while increasing our taxes is not a good way to tell the country that we need our money back. On the other hand, a freeze in the wages of unionized labour countracted by the city is a better way to show to the world that yes, maybe Toronto really needs some help.

    Unsurprisingly, the Tories are likely to show less pity towards this city. My problem is that without Conservative representation in the house, the problems that Toronto face will likely be ignored. The impression, gathered by its representatives in the 905 area, will remain that Toronto is a bloated bureaucracy that needs to be trimmed. Expect money to flow to cities in Western Canada, but none for Toronto.

    I don’t disagree that Mel Lastman did not do us any favours during his tenure (he bet the political farm that the city’s finances would probably bounce back if we got the 2008 Olympics, but he shot himself and the entire city in the foot in the process), but the track record of Mayor Miller suggests that in a time where financial jurisprudence is absolutely required, he isn’t showing it. He has just as much to blame as Mel does for the financial mess we’re in.

    Steve: I would be more sympathetic to your argument if you allowed for the fact that wages and increases comparable to those granted in the 416 have also happened in the 905. If the 905ers want to be blind to what is going on under their noses while criticising the 416, well, that’s not the sort of penetrating analysis that logically ends with David Miller as the author of our financial mess.


  15. Hi Steve,

    I attended a High Speed Rail Symposium today put on by highspeedrail.ca. My attention was brought to a recent speech given by Mr. Ignatieff, where he proclaims “We need affordable housing, public transit, energy grids, high speed rail and programs to help lift many Canadians – and their kids – out of poverty.”

    Just thought this was relevant to the discussion.

    Steve: The link above goes to the National Post’s copy of Ignatieff’s speech to the Canadian and Empire Clubs, and the comments posted below the text are far more scathing than any comment I might dream up.

    Fearless leader plans to hold Stephen Harper’s feet to the fire. He will demand reports! The government will quake in its boots!! And this, according to an interview today, is “fiscally responsible”.

    Ignatieff appears to hope that the Tories will make such a shambles of their “stimulus”, that so little money will go out the door thanks to all of conditions, that the program will self-destruct from simple embarrassment. If I were Stephen Harper [a pause here while I shudder], I would be making sure that I had photo ops with big cheques, happy local politicians, and busy workers every day of the week. I would send bundles of them tied with bright Tory-blue ribbons across the aisle to the Opposition benches at every sitting of the House.

    This is the man who will rebuild the Liberal Party. Sigh.


  16. Monday, Michael Ignatieff was interviewed on Metro Morning.

    Part of his “what the Liberals are doing/will do for Toronto” included this (quoted from memory):

    “How long can we not have high speed rail to Pearson Airport? In additon, we need to extend the subway lines and bus network.” (The order of items is correct, anyway.)

    No mention of Transit City, which would go through his riding. “High-speed rail” doesn’t sound like Transit City or GO. Subway extensions are okay with him (but Sherway is unlikely to happen, and the others have nothing to do with his riding, or even Toronto, mostly). And where in Toronto exactly could the bus network be expanded?

    I’ll write him a letter as one of his constituents asking him to please do some more research on Toronto’s transit needs.

    Steve: Considering that he lives in Yorkville, you really don’t expect him to know about transit in Etobicoke just because his riding is there, do you?


  17. Steve asks:

    “Considering that he lives in Yorkville, you really don’t expect him to know about transit in Etobicoke just because his riding is there, do you?”

    The educational process is long, repetitive, and also long and repetitive. I’m sure you can relate.


  18. As a card-carrying Conservative, I will admit I have some regrets about the Harris transit cuts. But I will maintain that the cuts at all levels of government during that period were necessary to ensure the long term viability of both Canada and Ontario. While the infrastructure deficit is a growing concern, I also have fears about the monetary debt, which when it grows sucks up even more money in future years with interest payments. It can lead to a never ending blackhole, a la Mulroney, whose government ran operating surpluses but fiscal deficits due to interest on the national debt during most of his tenure.

    It is my belief we should toll Highways where public transit alternatives exist, and with the exception of capital funding (which would be more balanced between roads and transit than today) leave competing transit (read GO not local) to its own devices as well. I honestly believe, that when the alternatives are equal, transit will come out ahead.

    Also not all conservatives “Don’t care about the cities”. Most of them just happen to be rural. Not a lot of rural Liberals/NDPers/Green party members REALLY care about the city either. It would be a disservice if I turned around and suggested the “left wing” parties don’t care about rural areas.

    Conservatives can be very supportive of transit when they come from areas where it exists.

    For the record Brad Clark a Harrisite former transport minister is leading the charge in Stoney Creek for improved transit there, and our (conservative) Mayor Fred Eisenberger is one of the leading political figures behind Light Rail in Hamilton. David Sweet, a local Conservative MP is also a supporter.

    Meanwhile our Liberal ex-Mayor Larry DiAnni, was often trashed by local transit supporters for many reasons.

    It’s not a black and white world.

    Steve: Definitely it’s not. However, if you marry the hard right premise that government has no business providing any services to the fact that most legislators of whatever stripe come from a car-oriented background, you have a dangerous brew. Stir in the idea that somehow the private sector can “do it better” (whatever that means) and by implication any public agency is wasting “our hard-earned tax dollars”, and you have a recipe for “Conservatives” being more likely to come off as anti-transit.

    Lest I appear one sided, back in 1990 when Bob Rae came to power, some of us in the transit advocacy community hoped to stop the subway juggernaut and get a serious look at LRT as a backbone network. This was a time when much of the suburbs we now know didn’t exist yet. Rae’s people would have none of this, and regarded subway construction as a job stimulus program. What we actually got was the Sheppard Subway and the stillborn Eglinton line, and Mike Harris killed off the rest of the network originally proposed in the dying days of the Peterson regime.
    Nobody’s hands are clean on that one, but we lost two decades in the process.

    There are many excellent Conservative politicians. At least at the municipal level there’s a chance that they will work harder for the needs of their constituencies and less on spouting mindless rhetoric.


  19. I’d agree with you on at least one thing Steve.

    Political decisions are far more driven by their life background than their ideology. An urban conservative might argue that roads should be privatized and that when the costs come down to it transit will win because it is naturally more efficient, while a suburban liberal might argue that transit isn’t used enough and we should pump our money into the roads that “everyone uses”

    Anyways, I didn’t want to make it seem like I was accusing you of being one sided. Just trying to point out that regardless of stripes we need more smart caring politicians.


  20. Steve, you made a comment about conservative municipal politicians. They are the worst I’ve met! The Toronto Party, which likes to think itself affiliated with the likes of Minan-Wong, Stinz, and Holliday has seriously debated cutting off ALL government funding to the TTC.


  21. While we talk the US and NY state in particular are moving ahead on high-speed rail. NY has applied for fed stimulus funding for trains that would get you from NYC to Buffalo in four hours. It should be a slam-dunk given NY’s strong support for the Democrats. Mentions are made of linking to Montreal and Toronto. Who says the Americans don’t think about us? They want to work with us but we don’t seem to have the vision or the guts. So we may well be left in the dust. Obama strongly supports high-speed rail for the entire midwest.


    The Star’s Mr. Hume has a pretty good column on the topic fairly recently as well:


    California’s voters, in the recent US election, also approved high-speed rail for their state in one of their famous plebiscites. Though who knows what will happen there now that CA is broke. But it would be good if that could be stretched into a west coast high-speed line into Vancouver.

    As for Ignatieff – what can you expect from an Iraq War hawk.


  22. When Americans talk about High Speed Rail they are talking not about even Acela type trains (except in California) but about 110 mph max speeds.

    We have had trains running running in Canada at about 106 mph.

    Even by our low standards the Americans have catching up to do.


  23. With politicians like this, maybe it’s best the federal government stay out of transit investments all together. Federal pet projects are worse than nothing, that’s what got us into our Blue 22 boondoggle.

    Ed, please update us with what response you get from the Ignatieff office.


  24. Steve,

    After a brief hiatus from the internet in general (due to some time-constraint issues) I have been trying to catch up on your blog in general. This thread has caught my interest. I would like to make several comments (directed here as well as my personal rant against several sites not related to this one).

    I have noticed that many right of centre leaning (some leaning so far right that they are in danger of falling over!!) politically oriented people and news organizations are figuratively (some literally) foaming at the the mouth to rant against union wages and public sector unions in particular. They have a perception that public sector workers are “over-paid” and “underworked” for people who have “grade 12 education” ( which BTW I personally have a post-secondary education). While it is human nature to vent about these “well-paid” with “excellent benefits” and “generous pensions”, not one of these ranters has the cajones to state what they believe these positions should pay per hour and what the benefits should be.

    My occupation (TTC Operator) has often been vilified as an example of this. Our contract negotiations seem to garner much space within the media. We are often claimed to be over-paid for what we do and we are subject to much media criticism (check out the recent media coverage of the OC Transpo strike). There is a public perception that we “are always on strike” when the reality is that we rarely strike (check the the history of TTC labour disruptions on the TTC website, ATU113 website, Toronto Star website). If we (TTC Operators) are so well paid with excellent benefits and pension, how come the TTC is continually having recruiting and retention (of new Operators) problems?

    To say that Toronto is being “punished” for not voting Conservative is political blackmail at its lowest form. Elected federal politicians are to represent ALL Canadians (witness what happened to Tom Wappell – a Liberal). This is the concern that I personally have with the Conservative party. I am personally right of centre in my political views (but I am more PROGRESSIVE Conservative and cannot stand the highjacking of my party by the the Reform/Canadian Alliance and cancelled my membership as a result.) I see the highjacking of the provincial PC party by the Harrisites (rhymes with parasites) and their (lack of) Common Sense Revolution comeback leading to more years of Dalton and his wishy-washy policies.

    Although currently a unionized worker, I have been a non-unionized worker for most of my adult life, so I try to see both sides of the issue.

    We really need for our politicians at ALL levels to work together to solve the problems and develop a cohesive transit policy (nationally, provincially, and at the municipal level) to help ALL Canadians.


  25. Luke asks, “Ed, please update us with what response you get from the Ignatieff office.”

    I got a form letter.

    “In receipt of your missive” (or some such Regency phrasing).

    “Be assured….the issues you raise have been examined and considered” (no reference to what the issues were, as this is a form letter of course)

    “Michael Ignatieff is very interested in hearing the views of Canadians” (I would like to have seen a version 1-b of this form letter where he’s interested in hearing from his constituents, seeing as how he is supposed to represent Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and I made it plenty clear I was a constituent [and a Canadian too in the larger scheme of things])

    “Visit liberal.ca” (uh, okay)


  26. This guy Iggy is the absolute worst. I am confident of two things: 1. He will say absolutely anything to get elected. (He embodies all of the worst stereotypes about politicians) 2. He will, if elected, do his best to destroy most of what is good about this country.

    It’s almost impossible to tell his policies from those of Harper, and on some counts (eg. the war in Iraq) he’s been further to the right than Harper.

    I am sure, as someone mentioned, that if he was in Toronto, he would have answered the question in a way that appealed more towards Torontonians, but that doesn’t mean he would actually follow through with it, if elected.

    I won’t be surprised if Canadians elect him, but if they do, Canadians will be surprised with the results.

    Steve: More to the point, will he run a centralized government like Harper where every decision goes through the PMO, or will he allow power and decisions to move back to individual ministers? If the latter, then the future of policies in the urban portfolios will depend as much on having cabinet members who are sympathetic to urban needs.


  27. Perhaps he was speaking from a regional perspective. I mean, perhaps the Maritime provinces and cities can handle transit expansion on their own if Ottawa covers highways and bridges. That’s not an assertion, but a suggestion since I’m not that familiar with the transit situation there.

    Ignatieff has expressed support in favour of subway expansion, something which is highly desirable in this city for speed, frequency, and capacity reasons. He’s not yet that knowledgeable of things like Transit City, but I doubt he’d dictate transit expansion. His election could accelerate projects like the DRL which would make the Yonge line extension more palatable.


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