Public transit the dominant issue this election campaign

Improved transit should be a priority of all political powers, says Ian McLean

In any election campaign, the agenda can change on very short notice based on mistakes or perceived mistakes from party leaders or candidates.

Tightly scripted messages on taxes and efficiencies in government services can be lost when opposition parties or other sources bring forward allegations of backroom deals.

The media and public generally perceive such indiscretions as far more interesting than specific policy details on health care and education.

One issue that is certain to remain at the top of the Waterloo Region agenda throughout the provincial campaign is public transit. This is certainly not a new concern that has emerged over the past six months — it has been a local priority for decades.

In 2011, when Waterloo regional council finalized plans to proceed with the LRT, local lobbying efforts intensified to secure GO train service into Waterloo Region. Municipal officials and other stakeholders here have been asking Queen’s Park for GO train service since it commenced in 1967. Peterborough, Niagara Region and Barrie have pursued this same agenda for an equal length of time.

Trains were eventually secured to Waterloo Region in late 2011, however local lobbying efforts from the business community and others quickly escalated for expanded service throughout the day, particularly for commuters living in Toronto and travelling into Waterloo Region for work. It is now estimated that more people travel into our community every morning than out to the Toronto area.

The discussion on Toronto-Waterloo Region transit further expanded with an announcement in 2014 that the Ontario government would commence an examination of high speed rail. It is still somewhat distant but nonetheless a priority locally.

Last week Kitchener city council passed a resolution for submission to the prime minister and the four major Ontario political parties calling for the respective upper-levels of government to remain committed to both two-way-all-day GO rail service from Toronto to Kitchener by 2024 and to move forward to bring Canada’s first high speed rail line from Toronto to London the following year.

The resolution notes that expanded transit will unlock the full potential of the Toronto-Waterloo Region Innovation Corridor and create more than 170,000 jobs and add $17 billion to the national GDP.

Transit is an investment that will generate significant returns to all levels of government across Canada and we ask that, in the short term, all provincial parties seriously consider these collective benefits.

This article was written by Ian McLean for the Waterloo Chronicle. View the original article here.