Ontario's current transportation network and residential development patterns are based almost entirely on the automobile. It has been widely recognized for many years now that this is a pattern that leads to severe pollution, alienated neighbourhoods, crowded and dangerous highways, an ugly uniformity to the built environment, and decaying urban centres. Could the various parties please outline their ideas for how alternative transportation and more varied and intelligent residential development can be actively encouraged, or if they do not intend to encourage these things could they please explain why not.
The Liberal answer:
A McGuinty government will pay more than lip service to the term "smart growth." We will manage growth and curb the sprawl that eight years of PC government have encouraged. We will tackle traffic gridlock and protect the loss of precious green space that has reduced quality of life for families and added substantial infrastructure costs for taxpayers.
We need to address transportation problems, not only by building more roads, but by investing in public transit -- and we need to do it right away. Waterloo Region and Wellington, like other centres in Ontario, require region-wide transportation planning that balances investment in roads, public transit and rail. That is why we will allocate two cents of the existing provincial gas tax to municipalities, to be applied to public transit.
By doing this, we will double the existing provincial investment in public transit. This will generate an initial $312 million per year for public transportation. To encourage more use of public transit, we will also work with the federal government to make transit passes people receive from their employers a non-taxable benefit.
The Harris-Eves government subsidized sprawl. We have a well-defined plan for protecting greenspace and containing sprawl. Instead of subsidizing sprawl, we will develop thousands of acres of vacant industrial lots in city centres to ease transportation pressures. We will provide infrastructure funding to priority growth areas in our city centres and urban nodes, rather than favouring new sprawl developments, and we will make sure developers absorb their fair share of the costs of new growth.
We'll also change the Land Transfer Tax Rebate Program to encourage people to buy homes in priority growth areas. Purchasers of new homes will be eligible where the homes are part of urban or suburban intensification. In addition, over the next 20 years, our plan calls for the accumulation of one million acres of protected greenspace and farmland to form a permanent greenbelt.
The Progressive Conservative answer:
Our Road Ahead plan will tackle our province's biggest public transit challenge first - the Greater Toronto Area.
We will build or expand public transit to cover major access corridors in and out of the GTA. But before we can commit to a new rail project, we must improve what is already in place. We will commit $430 million to improve GO Transit and other commuter services across the Golden Horseshoe including: modernizing the track and signal infrastructure in the Union Station corridor, adding a third track to sections of the Lakeshore corridor, extending GO train service to Barrie, increasing track capacity in the Georgetown and Milton corridors, and introducing new commuter service to Peterborough, Cambridge, Niagara Falls and Guelph-Kitchener-Waterloo.
The new Central Ontario Smart Growth Board will also design and implement a Riders First Pass that will integrate the fares of all GTA Transit Systems.
A passenger will be able to travel on public transit anywhere within the GTA by paying only ONCE. The Board may well decide that fares should be tiered so that a person travelling longer distances would pay a higher fare than somebody travelling a short way.
We will use the lessons learned in this process to tackle the transit challenges of other cities and regions across the province, using our Smart Growth Panel reports as the basis for planning. We will mandate the powerful new Smart Growth Board for Central Ontario to immediately tackle GTA gridlock as its first priority.
We will increase the capacity on high volume routes and through the GTA's bottlenecks. We will move quickly, using existing corridors for easily implemented solutions such as express buses travelling on revamped highway shoulders and high occupancy highway lanes. In the meantime, we will start the planning, design and construction of the longer-term transit and transportation solutions for the GTA. We will bring all the funding for GTA transit together into a single, $2 billion commitment to ensure the region's Smart Growth Board has the resources to carry out its important and ambitious mission.
The Board will also have the freedom to engage the private sector in innovative financing methods, provided they can make a sound business case for it.
The NDP answer:
The NDP has three major initiatives in our publicpower platform that address urban sprawl and the need for more transit-friendly cities. The NDP would bring in an Ontario Transportation Trust Fund that would give three cents of the existing gas tax to municipalities.
$281 million per year of this would go to municipal transit, $70 million would be for GO Transit and the remaining $117 million per year would go to maintain existing municipal roads.
This would be a stable ongoing source of funding that would be available every year. We would also bring in a new Green Planning Act which would make protection of wetlands and other natural features the law.
The new law would also require municipalities , the province and the OMB to make compact urban form the priority for new development. The Green Planning Act would be modelled on changes brought in by the province's first NDP Government in 1994.
Both the Conservatives and Liberals voted against those changes and the Cosnervatives revoked them when they came to power. Finally, our Fund for Dynamic Downtowns would provide $300 million per year to clean up former industrial sites, maintain and restore heritage property, create new public spaces and clean up existing ones and fund architecturally impressive new buildings.
This would encourgae people to live and work in the higher density city core rather than move to sprawling suburbs.