It was billed as a GTA Transit Summit but no one bragged that
they took a bus to get there.
Just the opposite: their cars streamed into the parking garage
at the Mississauga Civic Centre off Highway 403, near Highway
For Oakville Mayor Ann Mulvale, it's usually a 15-minute trip.
But she stuck it out on the 403 which was gridlocked because
of freezing rain and it took her 50 minutes. She arrived late.
Hamilton Mayor Larry Di Ianni made good time by getting off
the 403 but then got lost and wasn't sure how he got there.
And Burlington Mayor Rob MacIsaac -- who organized yesterday's
day-long summit of mayors and federal and provincial politicians
in the west end of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) -- admitted
he spent Thursday night in a nearby hotel.
"Being the lead-off speaker, I was not going to be stressed
about being here on time," he said.
MacIsaac, who has already challenged the province on some of
its plans for a new mid-peninsula highway, brought together
yesterday's summit of cabinet ministers, mayors, regional chairs,
GO Transit officials and blue-ribbon transportation bureaucrats
-- 50 people in all -- to press the case for increased senior
government commitment and funding for public transit.
Di Ianni and Terry Cooke, former Hamilton-Wentworth regional
chair and head of Fluke Transport, moderated panel sessions
at which various politicians pledged support for improved transit
measures or were called upon to provide sustainable funding
for integrated fare systems, and more buses, commuter trains
and rapid and designated highway bus routes.
Cooke told the politicians that unless they got some of the
commuters off the clogged highways, companies like Fluke that
move freight wouldn't be able to make a profit and the economy,
jobs and the country would suffer.
The date for yesterday's meeting was switched several times.
Mulvale said that was done strategically so that the mayors
could buttonhole top politicians in the new provincial and federal
governments and press them to deliver in their upcoming budgets
on the pious promises made in the recent throne speech.
Provincial cabinet ministers David Caplan for Public Infrastructure
and Harinder Takhar for Transportation said they favoured new
funding schemes such as a share of gasoline taxes. But they
were also guarded. Fiscal constraints and the realization solutions
were long-term had to be considered, they warned.
Federal Transportation Minister and Stoney Creek MP Tony Valeri
was more forthcoming.
"No longer will municipalities have to come cap in hand," said
Valeri, who added the government GST rebate would bring $7 million
to Hamilton. It was a throne speech downpayment on Prime Minister
Paul Martin's commitment to cities and infrastructure improvements.
"As a Hamilton resident, frankly, I know all too well what
it means to be stuck in hours of traffic going in and out of
Toronto," he said.
Hamilton's port could be used for short-haul shipping that
takes truck freight loads off highways, he said.
Valeri told The Spectator the federal government supported
Ontario's plans for a new transit authority for the GTA and
he would push for Hamilton to be included in it.
"I want to ensure any authority co-ordinating transit needs
reflects the needs of Hamilton," he said .
MacIsaac has included Hamilton in his mayors' caucus on transit
but Hamilton often finds itself on the fringes of planning for
Hamilton is pushing for increased GO Train service but Di Ianni
has yet to hear whether his application to sit on the GO board
of directors --replacing former mayor Bob Wade -- will be approved
by the province.
"There has to be recognition that we are part of the structure,
the decision-making and that we are players," Di Ianni told
Caplan told the meeting the province is still looking at various
transit authority models in other cities and said later the
boundaries for the new authority have not yet been decided.
"I'm strongly attracted to Hamilton getting a part," Caplan