At one of Toronto’s busiest intersections, Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow called on the federal government heed the demands of municipalities and fund infrastructure projects over the long term.
Chow, the NDP’s transportation critic, said she will to introduce a motion in Parliament next week seeking a long-term dedicated transportation plan for infrastructure and transit. On Friday, Feb. 22, morning, she released the details of the motion, which is expected to be debated in the House of Commons beginning next Tuesday.
Chow urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to include infrastructure funding in the spring federal budget to take advantage of this year’s construction season.
Not doing so, she said, could cost the national economy “thousands” of lost construction jobs.
“If we wait one more year, old infrastructure programs will expire and we will lose one full construction cycle,” said Chow from a coffee shop on the intersection of King and Bathurst streets.
“That would be disastrous, so there has to be an infrastructure plan this year.”
Without giving a precise dollar amount, Chow said future infrastructure funding to replace the current plan set to expire in 2014 has to be consistent and guaranteed over the long term.
Chow said the federal government should also resist playing favourites by privileging one municipality’s needs over another. “We don’t want to see a grand lottery,” she said. “Funding should be allocated by population. It should not be the government preferring this or that municipality, which is what is happening now.”
She said a bigger share of gas tax revenues would allow Toronto to address major infrastructure woes such as the crumbling Gardiner Expressway and the overcrowded subway system.
“We need a plan that will grow with the economy and the population,” she said.
Chow, who took transit to get to the press conference, arrived a few minutes late saying she wasn’t able to get on board the 504 King streetcar.
She tweeted pictures of the scene at Strachan Avenue to the west where riders stood by unable to get on the streetcar filled to capacity. Chow also invited federal transportation minister Denis Lebel to take a ride on transit with her during rush hour to see conditions firsthand.
Responding to Chow, Lebel, in a series of tweets, said the federal NDP had voted twice in 2011 against making gas tax transfer payments permanent to municipalities.
“The Harper Govt has delivered thousands of infrastructure projects that created jobs and economic growth in communities across Canada,” Lebel tweeted.