Monday, October 21, 2013

Toronto Could Use The Federal Subway Contribution For Other Things

One of the big myths still be pushed by Scarborough Subway proponents is that the Federal government's much touted announcement of $660M (in 2017 dollars, really about ~$450M in today's) is only for subways and in fact only for the Council voted McCowan alignment.  The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee was pushing this line on TVO's The Agenda tonight, and previously I've seen Councillor Pasternak of Ward 10 make the same claim on twitter.

Nope, no federal cash needed here

This is nonsense.  Yes, Minister Flaherty gave the announcement in front of placard that said "Subways For Toronto" but in fact, this money is just part of a previously announced national municipal infrastructure program called the "New Building Canada Plan."  The program was announced in the 2013 Budget, and amounts to $53B to be spent across the nation over 10 years.  The program is not tied to subways nor even to transit.  Toronto, with something like 7% of Canada's population was always going to get a pretty hefty chunk of that cash.

Think about what it would have meant for Ottawa to give Toronto special cash that no other municipality gets.  Most of Canada's opinion of Toronto is already pretty low, and for a government in the polling doldrums, being competitive in a couple Scarborough ridings can't be worth a national "wah Toronto gets special treatment" freakout.  But there was no freak out, because all the other municipalities know that Toronto is just getting an advance on its allowance.  They'll get their share too.

The actual official news release from the Federal government of the money for Toronto makes this all clear:
Under the New Building Canada Plan, public transit will continue to be an eligible project category, and the federal government will continue supporting infrastructure projects that are prioritized by Canadian municipalities, provinces and territories.
 "An eligible project category" means Toronto could have used this money to repair the Gardiner, fix our flood protection, build a relief subway line or any number of other things.  If you really prefer the subway, fine, it is one use for the money and much nicer than the last time Ottawa spent a lot of money in Toronto turning it into a militarized prison camp during the G20, but don't lie and say we had to spend the money on this subway because otherwise mean ol' Flaherty would have taken it away.

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