Sunday, June 03, 2007

Conservatives to invent a bus with no wheels

This is now a typical Conservative Party announcement.
Canada's transportation and infrastructure minister said Saturday the government is going to draw up a national urban transit strategy.
Going to... as in, we hadn't thought about that, but now that you mention it, we will.
"You have asked the federal government to take leadership, we have heard your message," Lawrence Cannon told the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Because up to now, this load of Harper cut-out dolls have been rotating on their thumbs.
The government will meet with provinces, territories and municipal groups over the next several month to put together the policy, he said.
Yeah, well, that will give him something to do. The fact is, the municipalities have been meeting without the federal government and produced a well researched document with the assistance of, you know, experts.
The document says an appropriate strategy must increase transit ridership, improve the economic competitiveness of Canadian cities, enhance the quality of urban life and reduce greenhouse gas reductions and improve air quality.

Cannon agreed with these broad goals, saying the government "recognizes that increasing the use of public transit can help reduce traffic congestion in cities, help reduce air pollution and the growth of greenhouse gas emissions."

Stunning. But in fairness, Cannon is a Conservative so such things would not have attracted his attention unless someone actually pointed them out. At least his recognition and awareness of the issue, accompanied by a grand announcement should mean some action. Right?

Tell me you don't know what's coming next.

"This national transit strategy is not about new funding beyond what is already committed, nor is it about federal intrusion," he said.

"It is about facilitating greater co-ordination and co-operation and collaboration between key funders and stakeholders."

No. Kidding.

Here, take my box of tissues and blow your nose. Oops! The box is empty. Oh well, it's still a box of tissues because it says so on the package.

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier, a member of the caucus, said they're looking forward to hearing the details of the government strategy - something he said Cannon told him would be available around September.

"Launching the strategy is something positive from the Big City Mayor's Caucus, positive from the city of Calgary," he said.

Bronconnier said he and the minister met after the announcement to talk about different ways governments can fund major transit projects.

"Nothing firm, other than he was supportive, saying, 'If you have a proposal that's innovative that brings in the private sector, that deals with land use and a possibility for an innovative solution that may be available to other municipalities besides Calgary, then send it to me," he said.

Bronconnier should know better. Cannon could have told him, "I got nothin'," and it would have amounted to the same thing. Given that the Bronconnier has been aggressive in developing Calgary's infrastructure and understands the private sector's extreme reluctance to become involved in municipal transit systems, what he actually got from Cannon was a snub.

What Cannon is not acknowledging is that, in 2005, the $4.2 billion spent on urban transit in Canada realized only $2.6 billion in revenue. The $1.6 billion shortfall was made up through municipal contributions. Capital investment of $1.6 billion in various systems came 100 percent from all three levels of government. With those kinds of numbers, the private sector wouldn't touch urban transit with a ten foot pole.

There is Cannon's record of achievement in urban transit to be considered. From 2002 to late 2005, when Cannon was president of Société de Transport de l'Outaouais, Gatineau's transit system across the river from Ottawa, he embarked on a transit plan that concentrated on building roads for vehicles while steering away from mass public transit.

At the same time, totally ignoring efforts by the City of Ottawa to develop an integrated light rapid transit rail system, Cannon focussed on putting more buses on the National Capital Region's already bus clogged streets. The result of this conflict has been to have the City of Ottawa drop a comprehensive urban transit study and go back to the drawing board.

Cannon's announcement is standard fare from the Harperites: No plan, no money, no substance and absolutely no thought.

He's got nothin'.

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