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Ottawa passes buck on delays

Federal funds for Union Station, airport link, TTC held up by city, province’s wrangling, says minister

Dec 08, 2007 04:30 AM
Paul Moloney
city hall bureau

Intergovernmental wrangling and red tape are holding up federal funding for Union Station, a fast transit line to the airport and the York University subway project.

But it’s not Ottawa’s fault, federal Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Lawrence Cannon said yesterday.

In a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade, Cannon said he’s as frustrated as anyone that Union Station continues to crumble, there’s no airport link and funding deals for the subway and TTC rolling stock have yet to be inked.

Meanwhile, no such problems are occurring in nearby regions. Cannon expects to conclude deals next month providing $263 million of federal cash for transit in Brampton, Mississauga and York Region.

Back in 2000, Ottawa announced $25 million for upgrades to the city-owned Union Station, but the money has been held up until a governance body is set up to look after the station, said Cannon, who called on the city to get moving.

“Historic Union Station is at the heart of Toronto, and its redevelopment is essential,” Cannon said. “However, given the importance of this station … it’s imperative that its governance structure be clarified before we move forward on any project.”

Ottawa is also prepared to put money into a fast rail link from Union Station to Pearson International Airport, but the project appears to be stalled, he said.

“The environmental assessment for this project has been bogged down for two years now, with no sign of any progress,” he said. “The lack of a fast, frequent connection to downtown from the airport in a world-class city such as Toronto is turning into an embarrassment.”

Ottawa announced $697 million in funding to extend the subway into York Region earlier this year, but Cannon said a formal deal has yet to be signed with the province, which is to pay one-third of the cost.

Meanwhile, Mayor David Miller has accused Ottawa of throwing up roadblocks by insisting the city look at bringing in private partners.

Cannon said studying privatization is a general requirement to qualify for federal money, but privatization is not mandatory and a study need not be onerous.

Miller has also complained that no money has flowed to the city from the $350 million federal commitment announced in March 2004 to help the TTC buy new vehicles.

The feds currently owe more than $100 million for their share of expenses already incurred, said TTC spokesperson Vince Rodo.

“We’re getting hybrid buses delivered, lots of them,” Rodo said. “We’ve placed the order for the subway trains from Bombardier. The city has reimbursed the TTC, and we’re now waiting for the federal government to reimburse the city.”

Cannon said Miller’s refusal in January to accept GO funding obligations “scuttled” the contribution deal.

But in a statement, Miller rejected Cannon’s criticism as “misinformed.”

“The fact is that the city and the province worked co-operatively to come to an agreement around funding of the Spadina subway extension more than two years ago,” he said. “This agreement includes provisions for the city’s contributions to the funding of GO Transit.”

Cannon said the Conservative government plans to help cities through infrastructure funding, not by turning over 1 cent of the GST, as Miller has campaigned for.

Ontario Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley suggested Cannon should put his money where his mouth is.

“The municipalities have been calling upon the federal government to make a significant contribution to the needs of cities, including the needs of public transit,” Bradley said. “I would hope that Mr. Cannon was showing up in Toronto today with several billion dollars that would represent a federal contribution to transit projects in the GTA.”




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