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Feds reject funding for streetcars

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According to the Globe and Mail, another twist has developed in the political soap opera centred around federal funding of Toronto’s streetcars.

Ottawa is standing firm in its refusal to give Toronto $400-million in stimulus money for the largest light-rail contract in North American history, raising questions about the fate of a project with huge economic spin-offs for Canada’s beleaguered industrial sector.

Instead, Infrastructure Minister John Baird offered the city a way it could indirectly tap the stimulus fund: Move up construction projects that can be completed in two years and use the savings to pay the federal share of the $1.2-billion streetcar contract.

Mr. Baird’s conciliatory gesture comes as Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller head to Thunder Bay Friday to pledge their financial support for a deal with Bombardier Inc. of Montreal that is set to expire in just over a week.

Amid strenuous efforts in recent days by the city and the province to get Ottawa on board, Mr. Baird continued to insist that the city’s pitch to replace 204 aging streetcars does not qualify for his government’s $4-billion federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund.

“It’s a fantastic project,” he said of the streetcar initiative. “It’s just not eligible for this program. And [that’s] not just a technicality.”

He said the federal stimulus funds are intended for projects that create local jobs over the next two years. By contrast, jobs for the streetcar project would be mostly in a Bombardier assembly plant in Thunder Bay, not in Toronto.

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  1. Well, I just emailed Mr. Baird my very heated objection and I hope everyone reading this article does the same.

    Technicality my ass!!!

  2. The conservatives seem to have given up on trying to win any votes in Ontario.

  3. The automobile infrastructure gets like 12 billion and mass transit cannot even get 400 million? I think priorities are mixed up somewhere.

  4. I think the Conservatives have just realised they cannot win a majority: they’ll never get Quebec, and they’ll never get any amount of urban seats. Expect a lot more “&%$# off” to come as they hold onto the politically and socially ignorant who vote for them in places we wouldn’t want to live.

  5. It’s become clear that shovel-ready means that you have to have a bunch of hole-diggers ready.

    shovel ready = people digging holes = short term goals = political crap that can recited at election time

    Frankly, I don’t care about stabilizing the local economy with busy work, I want to see smart projects with long-term benefits to the local and provincial economy.

    What’s good for Toronto is good for the Province, what’s good for the Province is good for Toronto, back the streetcars Baird!

  6. This is job creation and the environment that Baird is saying “fuck you!” to.

  7. The Feds made the right decision. The plan is for immediate and local projects. The reason is to counteract a faltering economy and create local jobs. Something that Toronto has been absolutely dismal at.

    That is not to say that they should not be supporting public transit. Just not through this program.

  8. Has Toronto lost many jobs because of the recession though? I know that Durham has.

  9. Then maybe they should have named the alternate program and finalized the funding needed.

  10. At last somebody who puts people ahead of a blindly anti-car agenda. Not everyone is happy with our city being hijacked by undemocratic, force-it-down-the-stupid-citizens throat urbanites. This is a free country and the rights of others to make a different lifestyle choice deserves to be protected. Many more creative solutions need to be looked at vs. the current web of cement and steel being proposed across the city.

  11. Ottawa can find an alternate means to direct the money, the application doesn’t have to rejected outright, it just needs to be drafted into another program.

    Baird needs to work more creatively, you only make a certain kind of friend when you act like a bulldog with tax dollars, and I don’t think that friend will be in office next time around.

  12. Lynne,

    Out of the interest of debate on what qualifies as democracy in a municipality, do you not think that urban areas should require a proportional representation in terms of transit infrastructure rather than a black and white approach to everyone or no one being a driver?

    Part of the Transit City strategy, beyond creating medium density (not high density) urban populations along public transit services streets, is to alleviate car traffic from roads so that the current level of traffic can be maintained and goods and services as well as people can continue to flow on four wheels for several more decades.

    I don’t think anyone is saying the car should be abandoned, in some small areas in the city it would be nice, but it’s an integral part of how we do business, but has also become the way we’re expected to do everything, and therein lies a huge error an inefficiency.

    Municipalities can’t be black and white about modes of transit, all means have to be a safe and accessible option. This will keep our economy diverse (note Detroit) and improve the livability of our urban centres and suburbs.

  13. Bombardier is also supposed to supply the Transit City vehicles. The federal government has already announced (and will likely re-announce a few more times) that it is contributing to some of those lines.
    Is some of the work that will be done for this streetcar contract also applicable to the Transit City vehicles? If so, then it is just a matter of some accountingt sleight of hand to allocate some of the overhead to the Transit City vehicles. The federal government is contributing to some of those lines including vehicle acquisition as well as the cost of construction.

  14. Yes Ottawa can find alternate means to fund this. That doesn’t excuse Miller for attempting to use this program. It clearly does not fit within the guidlines. He dropped the ball, big time.

  15. Kevin, this is separate from Transit City. This is to replace the current streetcars we have with lower floored, higher capacity models.

  16. Note that McCallion and Fennell have both said that if they believed that the Fed scheme allowed the application Toronto made, they would have made similar ones.

    My objection to all this is that it shouldn’t have been treated as stimulus but industrial development. Thunder Bay should have gone to Ontario and Canada and requested that they co-fund the construction of the line in TB, just as Ontario were falling over Fiat to build an Alfa Romeo line last year. Meanwhile, Torontonians could have been relieved of the capital costs of remediating roads and sewers and bridges under the stimulus programme, with the savings put into the TTC Capital Budget.

  17. “Then maybe they should have named the alternate program and finalized the funding needed.

    Comment by A.R.
    June 19, 2009 @ 12:26 pm”

    Not sure what you meant by this. The Downtown Streetcar order was the *only* programme the City submitted to the Federal Government under the Stimulus Funding application. There was no “alternate” option for the Feds to fund.

  18. What is stimulus,

    The reasons for stimulus packages accepted by governments and economists around the world is to pump money into the system immediately to maintain local economic activety and provide jobs and income to pump the engine. Toronto Housing has a huge $300 million infrastructure deficit the City is trying to address, Toronto Water has a huge sewer infrastructure deficit we are paying for with 9% increases a year in water rates, this week we find out our Parks and Rec Department has a huge infrastructure deficit and a new initiative is announced to spend $100’s of millions to restore swimmable beaches to Sunnyside. All these needs fit into the Stimulus guidelines. All Miller had to do was apply to the Feds to fund these already budgeted items and use the saved money for streetcars, instead of risking it all in confrontation. Instead he is granstanding because he wants the credit yet makes Toronto again look like Crybaby City to the rest of the Country.

  19. This is not really a black and white issue. Today in Thunder Bay, MCGuinty said (albeit in French) that the streetcars are part of a stimulus package from the province that the Feds have agreed to fund. Remember that the Province workd with Toronto on this application to the Feds and agreed this was a good project to submit.

    baird has also said that the city can apply for any project of bridge repairs, TCHC, etc, or anything else Toronto has shovel-ready, but if you read the application is says the projects that apply can’t be things worked into the current budget.

    Also, I talked to City staff today and they said the application NEVER states that the jobs in the project have to be local. And, really, how could it be? Would a Vaughan or Newmarket company be local to Toronto if they were hired by the City do fix a bridge?

    Baird and The Feds are just talking out the side of their collective mouth and are being rather selective.

  20. But that is just it Matthew, there is a tremendous backlog of things that have been deferred. Most of which would have provided a greater amount of local stimulus. Yet they decided to pursue one thing only. It was negligent.

  21. Baird is right…Miller is wrong.
    He didn’t play by the rules. Simple as that.
    Why is it that all the other mayors & municipalities got their requests right & Miller didn’t?
    The infrastructure projects are supposed to help local stimulus for shovel ready projects.
    Yes Matthew, I agree, a construction project inside T.O. could be awarded to a company in Vaughan.
    But most construction architects, contractors, & trades companies are located within the Toronto proper. There’s a much higher chance a contract will be awarded to a company within T.O. (I work within the industry so I know). Whereas the streetcar project almost guarantees that the manufacturing and supply chain whether directly or indirectly will be helping a municipality outside of T.O.

  22. It’s an interesting historical factoid that Toronto started construction on the Yonge subway in 1949 without funding from either senior government. It was only when the province saw that TO was serious about building a subway system (as bulldozers were tearing up Yonge St) that they agreed to provide permanent funding for the Yonge and other lines. Had the Toronto mayor of the day (Lamport I think) not taken this risk and issued bonds to fund the project, it’s unclear whether we ever would have got a subway system as every other city in NA at the time was planning elaborate urban freeway systems. Toronto is getting untold billions from the senior governments for transit expansion (Spadina line to York, GO, Transit City), something unimaginable ever a few years ago, and well yes, it would be nice if 2/3rds of the new streetcars were funded as well, I think the city has to be prepared to borrow the money to pay for the federal share if it is not forthcoming. It may come eventually, but this should not slow the implementation of the city’s visionary transit plans in the meantime.

  23. @mattb – if the application is so hard to make, how have so many other municipalities managed it? Why wouldn’t Fennell and McCallion be saying “we can’t access the funds because we don’t have unbudgeted projects”? How did Calgary manage to get their LRT extension approved with stimulus money?

    The Mayor has made an error here. That said, I suspect the “deadline” for the order is artificial and a fudge will be found to delay it until Ottawa digs into some other “fund” it discovers lying around Treasury Board like it did with GM.

    I’m guessing the longing among some Spacing bloggers for Barber to return as G&M Toronto guy just got a little deeper…

  24. is that really going to be the colour scheme? uhh, i hope not!