Monday, May 18, 2009

More Money for Transit – Must Be an Election Around the Corner

Last week politicians grinned their way off a street car in Canada’s biggest city, as they announced mega bucks for a new light rail transit system in that city.

The staged photo opportunity involved politicians from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, smiling for the cameras, with banners blazing all around, about more money for more public transit projects.

At this particular event, the politicians announced a new light rail transit line, which would run in the northeast end of the city of Toronto. Although many were also anticipating funding for new street cars, buses, and subways – but nothing was mentioned of these plans, which were previously discussed at similar press functions.

Discussions about public money and what to do with that money happen all too often in our country, usually with much pomp and fanfare, but little substance. I still remember covering a press conference back in 1996, when then Ontario Minister of Transportation, Al Paladini, announced a plan to run Toronto’s subway system to the main York University campus in the city’s northwest end.

Paladini was a great salesman. Many Toronto residents hear his name and still remember “any pal of Paladini’s is a pal a mine.” That was his radio jingle which promoted his car dealership back in the 1980’s, he entered politics in the late 80’s and unfortunately passed away not long after in the 90’s.

Great sales people don’t always make great politicians though.

It’s been a long time since 1996, and York University still has no subway – though the “discussions” which politicians do so well continue.

One thing I’ve learned over the years, until they actually have big heavy machines breaking ground, many detoured roads, and local residents complaining about the dust and noise, it’s all hogwash.

Funny thing about Canadian politics, most hogwash occurs just before an election. That’s when politicians run out of big cheques, as they continuously write those massive cheques for projects which they are discussing, in the hopes of winning your vote.

Politicians get a bad rap – and they deserve much of it. Buying our votes by promising projects which never actually take shape, and then when being taken to task, blaming the other political parties for stone-walling the whole thing.


They never intended to really go ahead with their lofty plans; they just wanted to win their jobs back.

I challenge any politician to actually deliver on their promises made back in 1996 to build a subway to York University BEFORE the next election, and then, maybe, I’ll start believing in their banter.

If they make a promise to do this before the election – pending their election to office – and then actually begin the project, it does NOT count – that is just their continued use of the need for public transit to win votes. Seeing as the original promise was made in 1996, the politicians owe us this one.

Yes, I can hear the screams from the politicians reading this blog – but what about the environmental assessments, the bidding process for contractors to build the subway, the massive amounts of paperwork and planning.

Tough! It’s been over 13-years since that initial promise was made, an d although Paladini is no longer running the show, there have been many others since him who have continuously made the same promise of building a subway to York University’s Keele and Steeles Avenue campuses.

If our federal, provincial and municipal leaders can’t complete something which they promised over a decade ago, then they don’t deserve anything but my ill words, and they certainly don’t deserve my vote – or yours either.

Don’t be sucked into the “discussions” politicians promise, as they handout big paper cheques for photo opportunities. When we go to the polls for any election – federal, provincial or municipal – always vote based on what actually was said and done – not just said.

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