Toronto Medical Officer of Health Backs GO Electrification

The Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for the City of Toronto formally objects to the use of diesel propulsion for expanded service in the “Georgetown South” corridor (Parkdale, Weston, Brampton).  Background information is published on the City’s website.

Two things are striking about this position.

First, the MOH worries that any accommodation of diesel, nominally for the short term, may lead to downplay of future pollution concerns and delayed implementation of electric operation throughout the GO network.

Second, and far more seriously, the MOH charges that there is “bias” in the interpretation of the environmental studies forming part of the Environmental Project Report (EPR).  In brief, the background studies are thought to be too conservative, but even their conclusions, some quite serious, are underplayed in the summary reports.  In effect, The MOH implies that Metrolinx hopes people will not read or understand the background studies, and that by trivializing the findings in the summary reports, Metrolinx can make the problems go away.

In my articles, I use the term “bias” with care as it implies deliberate misrepresentation rather than simple incompetence.  My experience with many agencies (public or private) is that sheer stupidity can explain much that appears like Machiavellian intrigue.  I prefer to leave decisions about which might apply in any circumstance to the reader while leaving the hapless technocrat or politician with a Hobson’s choice — are they trying to pull a fast one, or are they simply unqualified to do their job.

Bound up in all of this is the fate of the Air Rail Link.  Every time any activist tried to pull that service into the discussion, the answer was that it was the subject of a separate agreement with Ottawa and with the proposed operator, SNC-Lavalin.  Despite this, Queen’s Park shelled out millions for infrastructure upgrades that the ARL project won’t have to pay for.  We still don’t know whether the proposed spur into the airport is even capable of supporting overhead wiring for electric operation.

GO/Metrolinx chose to bundle the review, design and EA for the ARL with the Georgetown South project, and the ARL is part of their scope whether they like it or not.

A Medical Officer of Health is not a “foamer”, a drooling railfan, or a NIMBY community activist, or a politician-on-the-make — some of the kinder terms folks associated with Metrolinx choose when speaking of their opponents. Dismissing people with that sort of attitude may play in the pages of the Sun or National Post, but it does not invalidate the arguments. Metrolinx and GO have done much damage to their credibility with this sort of tactic.

Now the Minister of the Environment must decide whether to ignore the MOH’s concerns and claim that Metrolinx has better expert advice.