- Written by Gordon Prentice
At the last Provincial election fewer than half of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballot. Why did so many people stay at home? Their indifference raises big questions.
Why bother to vote?
Does your vote make a difference? Or does it simply legitimise a system that is broken?
The next IdeaMarket is at Newmarket Public Library tomorrow, Tuesday, from 7pm - 9pm in the Multi-purpose room.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
We are crying out for a fast and frequent GO train service to Toronto.
Here in Newmarket, a town earmarked for explosive population growth, transit should become a touchstone issue – in the way it has in Kitchener-Waterloo.
All the political parties are talking about all-day two way GO trains but is it just the usual election hype? Or, this time, are the Parties serious?
The Liberal Platform
In their 2014 Platform, published on Sunday, the Liberals promise to deliver all-day GO Train service “to more communities”. They say they will spend $29 billion over the next decade
“for investments in transit and transportation infrastructure projects across the province… This investment will introduce train service every 15 minutes on all GO lines. It will mean less congestion on the roads and less time spent on the train platform.”
Of course, we have been here before. In their 2011 platform, the Ontario Liberals declared:
“In the next phase of the Ontario Liberal Plan, we’ll expand service by delivering full-day, two-way GO train service on all corridors – that’s the equivalent of 71 million fewer car trips annually.”
Progressive Conservatives want to "expand transit"
The PC 2014 platform promises to:
“expand our highways by fixing bottlenecks throughout the region. And we will expand GO Transit with more rush hour service, more express trains, more all-day, two-way service and a more superior customer experience.”
NDP has two priorities but is otherwise unspecific
Just like the Liberals, the NDP says it will earmark $29 billion over 10 years for transit and transportation projects across the Province “and begin flowing funds immediately”. However, the NDP’s priority will be all-day two-way GO trains to Kitchener Waterloo and an all years round daily service to St Catharines and Niagara Falls.
To vote NDP on the strength of their plans for transit would be an act of faith.
Two-way all-day service will be introduced within 10-15 years say Town's outside consultants
As part of its Secondary Plan process, the Town of Newmarket commissioned a Transportation Study from consultants GDH. The Study, which is referred to in the draft Secondary Plan published last September, was only made public in April 2014. Newmarket’s planners and others from the Region have been fine-tuning it for months. On GO Train frequency it says:
GO Transit service is currently at 2 trains per hour (5 trains during peak period) in the peak direction during the AM and PM peak periods. Based on Metrolinx’s Big Move transit plan, GO Rail service through Newmarket is expected to increase significantly from two trains per hour in the peak direction to 3 peak direction trains by 2021 and 4 peak direction trains by 2031. Furthermore, two-way all-day service will be introduced within 10-15 years (before 2031). Metrolinx has advised that the tracks will have to be doubled to Newmarket and beyond, to accommodate this service improvement.
This begs a number of questions. If Metrolinx believes the tracks will have to be doubled to Newmarket, is the present railway corridor wide enough to carry a second track? What preparatory work has been done?
Newmarket’s draft secondary plan also refers to the proposed new park and ride GO train station at Mulock Drive. Where are we on that? How does it fit into the grand scheme of things?
Rob Prentice explains
Rob Prentice, the Town’s Commissioner for Development and Infrastructure, told the special public meeting on the revised draft secondary plan on 28 April 2014:
“…GO has been working on an operational plan for a couple of years now. They have been aiming towards more frequent service. All day service was something that was only recently mentioned at a provincial level and it didn’t specifically say which lines. But they have looked at expansion to all-day service and had a target of, I think, their last plan of 2020. So it is some years off and in those plans double tracking isn’t always necessary. Maybe in some lengths of the railway corridor but not through every location. So it doesn’t necessarily mean double tracking.
He went on:
The (new proposed) station at Mulock has been in GO’s plans for a number of years, certainly as long as I can remember so it has shown up in their long range plans for a very long time as do others. The regional official plan. As others do. At Bloomington. So they are very long range plans. The specifics around them at this time are not very clear. They are general long-range plans. They don’t have specific sites or dates.
It all seems a bit up-in-the-air to me. If the Town's top expert on infrastructure and development doesn’t know what’s happening what chance is there for the rest of us?
Last month I wrote to Bruce McCuaig, the Chief Executive of Metrolinx, on the dual tracking issue and on the proposed new rail station at Mulock.
Maybe he can shed some light on things - even if the politicians can’t or won’t.
What the Parties say about the Ontario Municipal Board
Newmarket is a town on steroids.
We are growing fast. And we know from bitter experience that developers appeal to the OMB at the drop of a hat if their plans are delayed or challenged by the Town.
OMB rulings can have a profound impact on our neighbourhoods, changing them forever.
Yet none of the main political parties wants to get rid of the OMB despite flaws that are self evident. The rulings don't follow precedent and can be capricious. The appointed adjudicators - some good, some woefully poor - need not have any legal training yet the OMB operates with many of the formal trappings of a Court of Law.
The Ontario Liberal Government went out to public consultation on land use planning some months ago but specifically did not include the Ontario Municipal Board in its remit.
The Liberals boast about introducing “award-winning” land use planning legislation that "encourages smart growth and protects green spaces for future generations". Given what happened to Glenway, how can they say this and keep a straight face?
The Liberals promise legislation to
Enhance respect and protection for local official plans when municipalities do comprehensive, up-front planning and zoning.
Reduce the number of development applications that go to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Ensure citizens are consulted sooner and that there is more citizen input into the land use planning process.
You can take what you want from these pledges. Elasticity is built in.
Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives say in their Paths to Prosperity document, Building Great Cities
The intensification demands of provincial planning should not override local decision-making. We will retain the Ontario Municipal Board to balance the concerns of individual citizens, developers and cities.
I am not entirely sure where that contorted logic leaves us. At the end of the day, who calls the shots?
Andrea Horwath’s slender “Plan That Makes Sense” says nothing about the OMB.
Yet, in the last Parliament, the NDP MPP Rosario Marchese introduced a Private Members Bill that would remove OMB jurisdiction from the City of Toronto. It died with the Parliament.
So there is a very real issue about the OMB.
But one the NDP is unwilling to address in its election platform.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The NDP platform, published this morning, is good in parts but there are huge gaps where there should be detailed policy.
On the positive side, freezing tuition fees sounds like a good thing to me. Similarly, restoring passenger services on the Ontario Northland Rail is something crying out to be done. Other pledges too make sense. You decide.
But, curiously, there is nothing about pensions. Pensions are a big deal. Just ask anyone who has a lousy one. The last NDP platform (Plan for Affordable Change) reminded us that: “For the two out of three Ontarians who do not have a workplace pension, we will develop an Ontario Retirement Plan to provide a defined benefit pension to people who want one.” What’s changed?
The Platform is full of wishful thinking. And in the absence of detail I have no way of reassuring myself what is promised will, indeed, come to pass.
$250 million annually is to be allocated for priority transit projects including “all-day two-way GO train services to Kitchener-Waterloo and year-round daily GO train service to St Catharines and Niagara Falls”.
But what about the Barrie line? No all-day two-way GO train service promised here.
The NDP plans to spend an equivalent sum ($250 million) annually to widen 60km of highways every year. This is complete lunacy. These widened roads will simply fill up with traffic a year or two after the tarmac is laid. That $250 million should go into the GO train network if the NDP is serious about addressing gridlock.
The Liberals, tainted by scandal, are in rehab, promising to be good in future. They are formally launching their Election Platform on Sunday afternoon in Thunder Bay. Kathleen Wynne told the Toronto Star’s editorial board earlier today that there would be no surprises. It would be a “fleshed out” version of the Budget.
Presumably it will be fatter and more substantial than the NDP's anorexic Platform. Six pages long and thin on detail and explanation.
Anyway, you pays your money and you takes your choice.
The Toronto Star has again called for more election debates – while recognising that, at this stage, it may be difficult to fit them in.
As it happens, Tim Hudak tells us what he really thinks of these debates by pulling out of the one on Northern Ontario issues. We are told it is a scheduling clash, but what is more important than participating in a televised debate? What exactly will he be doing instead?
21 days to go.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The candidates’ debate in Newmarket Aurora, hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce, is set for Friday 30 May 2014 at 7pm in the Newmarket Theatre. Voters will have the chance to quiz the candidates informally at an open house from 6pm but many will have checked them out first on-line.
Social media makes it easier than ever to get a handle on the candidates and get a sense of where they are coming from.
Progressive Conservative Jane Twinney hopes to succeed Frank Klees who steps down from Queen’s Park after 18 years. She starts as favourite in a riding that is traditionally conservative with household incomes way above the national average.
Jane is seen as warm and likeable – and in politics that counts for a lot – but, ideologically, there seems to be no sheet anchor determinedly holding her in position on the right of the political spectrum. She could easily break free of her moorings and drift to the left.
She is pragmatic and doesn't say a lot at meetings of Newmarket council. When she does she is often hesitant. Faced with a difficult or controversial decision, her first instinct is to consult. She rarely stakes out a position, rallying others to her banner. She will ask for everyone’s views.
She invites people who visit her Newmarket council website to read her blogs if they want to keep up-to-date. Not wishing to over exert herself, Jane has written five blogs in the present council term. Her latest, dated 30 January 2014, is on the garbage problems over the winter. The one before, dated 29 November 2011. was on the YRT strike.
The bottom line: Don’t rely on Jane’s blogs to stay up-to-date.
Chris “Leadership with Heart” Ballard has a campaign website and another detailing his work on Aurora Council – which, for the duration of the campaign, is inactive. He posts on a wide variety of issues and wants us to think of him as a busy boy, keeping lots of balls in the air simultaneously. He tweets.
The NDP’s new kid on the block is Angus Duff, an academic who teaches in Oshawa. He has lived in Aurora for 15 years. His twitter account is now up and running.
Elsewhere on the so-called campaign trail, Andrea Horwath vows to cut ER wait times in half. She says the NDP campaign platform will be fully costed when it is released “very shortly”.
The National Post’s Andrew Coyne has an interesting piece on Tim Hudak, suggesting he (Hudak) believes “commitment to a plan” might entice voters who are fed up with airy fairy promises or uncosted specifics.
We read that campaign ads will hit unsuspecting voters tomorrow morning, like a trumpet blast.
23 days to go.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Yesterday, we learn from the Toronto Star that Andrea Horwath promises to publish the full NDP platform “within a week”.
And not before time.
Horwath has taken a lot of stick over her unwillingness to disclose the NDP’s programme given she triggered the election in the first place.
Today (Sunday) the NDP put out an ad criticising the Liberals for wasting “tax-dollars”. True, the Liberal record is a legitimate target but people also want to know about the alternatives and what else is on offer.
Andrea Horwath cannot continue with her dance of the seven veils, dribbling out policy announcements day by day, without exasperating the commentators, the pundits and – more importantly – the voters.
Meanwhile, PC Leader, Tim Hudak, promises to build more roads, scrap LRT projects and run more frequent GO trains.
Kathleen Wynne takes the day off.
25 days to go.
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