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Chong ready to fight for transit aid

Friday, January 12, 2001

Gordon Chong is anxious to play hardball to get the province to help finance transit improvements in the Toronto and Hamilton regions.

The former city councillor will be named chairman of the Greater Toronto Services Board at a meeting today. He said he expects the province to give a clear signal soon that it wants the transportation co-ordination board it created to have more powers.

“If the province isn’t interested in doing that, the board really should be dismantled,” Mr. Chong said.

But that won’t happen without a fight, he suggested.

“Those who were overtly hostile have mellowed a bit now,” Mr. Chong said. He said the 42 mayors, councillors and regional officials who make up the board have told him they understand it is time for unanimity to lobby senior levels of government.

The board was created by the province in 1999 to co-ordinate transportation services in the five regions that make up the Greater Toronto Area.

However, its first two years have been marked by squabbling among rival municipalities and a continuing feeling that the board needs a clearer mandate.

Mr. Chong said he is optimistic that Queen’s Park will respond favourably to a report the GTSB is now completing that asks the province to give it more sweeping planning powers. “The people in government have heard and they understand.”

Mr. Chong said they should be given a list of specific problems that need to receive priority.

The bigger challenge will be to persuade both the federal and provincial governments to provide a reliable financial commitment for transportation, he said.

Toronto is the only major city in North America that doesn’t get at least some regular share of sales taxes or road and fuel taxes for transit development from the province or federal government.