Today saw an exchange in the Ontario Legislature showing the true colours of the provincial government when it comes to an informed, intelligent discussion of fare integration in the GTHA. The full exchange is below lest anyone accuse me of quoting them out of context.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Acting Premier.
Throughout its history, TTC fares in Toronto have been based on the simple principle that every Torontonian deserves equal access to their transit system regardless of their income and regardless of where they live.
But now Metrolinx is quietly working on a fare integration plan that could force people living in Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York to pay a higher fare for a subway ride than people living downtown. Will the Liberal government guarantee that Metrolinx will not force people living in Scarborough to pay more to ride the subway?
Hon. Charles Sousa: Minister of Transportation.
Hon. Steven Del Duca: I want to thank the leader of the NDP for the question. Of course, as everyone should know by now, the folks at Metrolinx, who are doing an exceptional job, are working hard to liaise with all of our municipal transit systems around the greater Toronto and Hamilton area to make sure that, collectively, we can deliver on fare integration for this region.
I think anyone who moves around the greater Toronto and Hamilton area would recognize—and certainly I hear it loud and clear from my own constituents in York region—that we need to make sure, in order to support the unprecedented transit investments that this government is making, that we need a fare integration system across this entire region that works seamlessly, that makes transit more accessible, more affordable, more reliable and more dependable for the people of the entire region. That’s the work that Metrolinx is embarking upon in conjunction with all of our municipal transit systems. They will keep working hard, Speaker, to make sure that we can get it right.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, in fact, what Metrolinx has been quietly doing is designing a fare integration plan that could force the TTC to become a zone-based system that divides Torontonians based on where they live. So years from now, people in Scarborough might get a new subway but then find out that they can only afford to ride the bus.
Will the Liberal government guarantee that there will be no fare zones within Toronto, and that Metrolinx will not force the TTC to charge higher fares for subway riders?
Hon. Steven Del Duca: I guess only the leader of Ontario’s NDP would think somehow that after months of open conversations, after months in which every single board meeting has a public portion, only the leader of Ontario’s NDP would think that this is somehow hidden. It’s a conversation that’s been ongoing.
It’s part of my mandate letter which, of course, she should know. For the first time in Ontario’s history our mandate letters were posted publicly at the time that we received them, Speaker.
I think what’s also, perhaps, the reason that the leader of the NDP is mistaken about how supposedly hidden this effort is, Speaker, is that because while we are investing in transit through budget after budget after budget, that leader and the NDP caucus continue to vote against them. They are obviously more focused on petty partisan politics in Scarborough instead of being focused on making sure that they support the transit investments needed to deliver the seamless integrated transit network the people of this region and the people of Scarborough deserve.
Let’s get the historical inaccuracy in Horwath’s question out of the way first. The pre-Metro Toronto Transportation Commission used a single fare within the old City of Toronto, and supplementary fares beyond in what were then separate municipalities where the TTC provided some services. Some suburban bus routes were operated by private companies which charged their own fares. After the creation of Metro in 1954, the Toronto Transit Commission had fare zones roughly based on the old city and everything else, but these were abandoned in 1973 as part of the political deal for suburban municipalities helping to finance transit expansion through their Metro taxes.
I am no fan of Andrea Horwath, but she asks a legitimate question.
The Minister’s response is pure political hot air talking about the wonderful work at Metrolinx, and the wonderful spending on transit construction now underway, but utterly avoiding the issue of separate fares either for zones or classes of service within Toronto. Instead, he turns the question into one of “petty partisan politics” and fails to address the matter of whether Scarborough riders will pay more to ride their new subway whenever it opens.
One might ask the same question about the Minister’s constituents in York Region who will be heavily subsidized by Toronto Taxpayers to ride the Spadina extension to Vaughan.