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Mayors plead for transit funds

Jennifer Lewington

Saturday, January 20, 2001

Big-city mayors from across the province pleaded with a top official of the Harris government to help pay for public transit as a matter of course — not as a special project.

“We need a consistent formula that doesn’t depend on the province setting up a special fund,” Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion said yesterday after she and other big-city mayors heard a presentation by Ontario Superbuild Corp. president David Lindsay.

“My fear is that any fund [like Superbuild] is a one-shot deal,” she said. “I don’t want it [funded] through Superbuild. We need a fuel tax or some other tax that is consistent on a yearly basis.”

Mr. Lindsay, a close ally of Ontario Premier Mike Harris, told the mayors that funding for public transit is one of the three major priorities of a $1-billion infrastructure program for the province’s large urban areas over the next five years.

His comments underscored the government’s growing willingness to invest in public transit after retiring from the field in the mid-1990s.

But the province wants to set their own terms.

For example, Mr. Lindsay stressed that Superbuild is ready to fund municipalities that work with the private sector to ease gridlock.

However, he reiterated the government’s firm resistance to dedicated revenue sources, such as a share of provincial and federal gas taxes, to pay for transit.