New deal for Toronto, bad deal for rural Ontario

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

While we await all the details, at first blush the New Deal for Toronto Act is a bad deal for rural Ontario.

For those not following the hubbub, this legislation enables the deal made between Toronto and the province worth $1.2 billion. The lynch pin of the deal is the province will upload both the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway in exchange for support for the redevelopment of Ontario Place. There are additional details, but the gist of it is Toronto is being given a sweetheart deal other municipalities in the province don’t have.

Starting with the so-called Gardiner Expressway, I drive this stretch of highway every time I go to Queen’s Park and am convinced a more appropriate name would be Gardiner Crawlway. Beyond the obvious capacity issues, the reconstruction of the Gardiner has been on the books for Toronto for six years. A $1 billion project, but only half of the work on the elevated roadway is completed. This road alone accounts for 14 per cent of the city’s budget.

I have less to say about the plans for the Don Valley Parkway, which I don’t drive.

Another part of the legislation will provide $600 million in operating support for shelters and homelessness, conditional on federal support for refugee and asylum claimants. The government should be applauded for taking the homelessness issue more seriously, but funding should have been more equitable. I am sure that municipalities across the province are going to be looking for similar funding.

Homelessness isn’t just a problem in the city, it is a growing concern in just about every municipality that has a downtown including Haldimand-Norfolk. I saw it last year, travelling with the Finance Committee, from Kenora to Peterborough, homelessness has changed the character of so many downtowns.

I find it interesting that the act claims it will put Toronto “on a path to growth and long-term financial sustainability,” while Haldimand, Norfolk and most rural municipalities are crying for infrastructure dollars. I am sure they would also like similar funding for upgrades to water systems, sewage systems and roads.

The government did provide $3 billion to the Ontario Infrastructure Bank in the Fall Economic Statement, but that is for the entire province. For instance, Norfolk County’s capital budget is $1.02 billion over the next nine years.

I am sure the expansion of cellular services in the subway is a topic that will raise the ire of the people in rural Norfolk and Haldimand who have poor cellular service. I hear from people across the riding the reception they receive is less than ideal. I think proper cellular service for homes and the surrounding area is more important than for those on a 30-minute subway ride.

Of course, there is the part of the deal that will hand over control of Ontario Place to the province. Why this government is so obsessed with this piece of waterfront it is willing to spend $1 billion hasn’t been answered.

My plan is to not support this legislation, but I am waiting to vote for a bill that will provide the same level of support to rural municipalities. Or, the legislation that will provide the requested $100 million injection into the farm Risk Management Program. Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-