Kicking our addiction to cars will help ensure healthy
Better public transit, tougher
land-use planning needed: PM's urban guru Hamilton Spectator
Feb., 25, 2004
Pushing Canadians to kick their addiction to cars is critical to ensuring
healthy cities that don't destroy the environment, Prime Minister Paul
Martin's pointman on urban issues said yesterday.
That means better public transit, along with disincentives such as
more expensive vehicles and tougher land-use planning, John Godfrey
Elsewhere in Toronto yesterday, David Caplan, Ontario's minister responsible
for infrastructure, preached the need for long-term planning in a speech
to the province's municipal leaders.
But many appeared skeptical, fearing more "red tape" would stifle economic
development. They were also impatient about the slow provincial response
to providing help with urgent municipal needs.
In his speech, Godfrey said: "The biggest challenge we're going to
face in the country is the way in which people use automobiles. It's
a challenge which we have to confront head-on and have a big discussion
about because people have tremendous values embedded in the way in which
they use their cars and the way in which they choose to make their real
Godfrey, whose comments came between sessions of a symposium put on
by the prime minister's national roundtable on the environment and the
economy, gave no details on what Ottawa might do to get Canadians out
of their cars.
Chaired by former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, the travelling advisory
panel hopes to make recommendations to Martin in time for next year's
budget on how to bring about his promised "new deal" for cities.
Harcourt said he's confident provincial governments will play ball
and he'll be able to provide the prime minister a detailed road map
by the end of November.
Godfrey said this spring's budget will jump-start the process by "fleshing
out" details of the government's throne speech, such as scrapping the
GST for municipalities and their agencies and a speed-up of infrastructure
But he said Ottawa can't simply start handing infrastructure money
to cities without some kind of agreement that the provinces and territories
won't grab the cash.
Harcourt said federal money could flow immediately to cities in those
provinces that do come to an agreement without waiting for others to
do the same.
Several provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario, will likely
have their 10-year infrastructure programs ready by the end of the year
so cities such as Vancouver and Toronto could start seeing real cash,
The advisory panel is also looking at numerous urban issues such as
immigrant-reception programs, helping aboriginal drug addicts, child
poverty, and housing for homeless.
Speaking for the province, Caplan told a joint conference of the Rural
Ontario Municipal Association and the Ontario Good Roads Association:
"We have to plan for the next two decades, not just the next election
The Public Infrastructure Renewal Minister said it's predicted Ontario's
population may swell to 16 million within a generation, and most of
the growth will occur in the Toronto-Niagara Falls-Barrie triangle of
But some delegates were more concerned about money to fix today's problems.
"What's the provincial government going to do today?" asked Port Hope
Mayor Rick Austin. "We like a long-term plan, but we need help today."