Tory and Liberal tag team destroys electrification hopes.

The second reading of Davenport MPP Jonah Schein’s private members bill to electrify the Union Pearson Express was unable to withstand the combined vote of minority governing Liberals and opposition P.C.s. and was consequently defeated. Precisely what interest the Hudak Tories have in blocking the bill is a mystery because passing a private member’s bill would not have triggered an election. Perhaps they have their own plans for the line if they can form a government after a possible spring election. Besides, anyone looking to the Tories for cleaner air is likely a cock-eyed optimist. The Liberals’ excuse is that they have to wait for the environmental study (a.k.a. delay of game) before acting. The depressing Hansard transcript (including some lovely eye-rolling moments) is on Jonah Schein’s site.

Read more in Oye Times.

Mike Sullivan hosts March 14th Pearson Airport Meeting

DSC01243

Mike Sullivan with GTAA Staff.

As is common with many community meetings, the organizers and facilitators from the GTAA (Greater Toronto Airports Authority) seemed to outnumber the good citizens of Weston in attendance. A series of information boards lined the walls of the Pelmo Park Community Centre along with airport staff there to elaborate on facts and figures and review the initiatives currently under way at Pearson. The main area of complaints from residents is undoubtedly that of noise and staff were able to explain to those interested the details of various flight patterns. The loudest time for Westonians is whenever there is an east wind and planes are taking off over Weston. This happens 40% of the time; people to the west of the airport have the lion’s share of take-off noise.

Another interesting fact that emerged is that the airport employs nearly 40,000 people of whom about 1000 live in Weston.

I asked about the occasional kerosene smell that seems to drift down from the airport during the winter months. The best thing to do is to phone in a report whenever there is a concern about noise or whatever. Reports are all logged and treated seriously.

A couple of items of news: the airport link which connects Terminals 1, 3 and the Value Parking Lot will be closed from March 19th until October to allow for the construction of the U.P. Express Station that will link the airport with Weston and downtown. Shuttle buses will move people between terminals until  then.

Mike Sullivan was able to chat briefly and mentioned that people shouldn’t get their hopes up about electrification of the U.P.Express trains. While Ontario Minister of Transportation Glen Murray has promised that electrification will begin in 2017, he has never made a commitment as to when it will be completed. You can watch the Minister waffling around in response to a couple of very clear Jonah Schein questions. Sullivan also mentioned that given the total cost to the taxpayer of the U.P. Express, it would have cost the same amount to have put in a subway line since the addition of a fourth track (necessary for all day GO service) will require tunnelling under the 401, one lane at a time at a cost of $400,000,000.

To contact the GTAA about Pearson Airport noise or other concerns, phone (416) 776-5739

or email: [email protected]

Eglinton LRT to be run privately

NDP MPP for Davenport Jonah Schein revealed a sharp rightward shift by the McGuinty Liberals during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature today. The TTC will not be running the new LRT service along Eglinton through York South-Weston. Instead, a private company (presumably for profit) will be handed the task by Metrolinx. In fact, all the new lines under construction will be privately operated. This marks the beginning of the privatization of Toronto’s transportation – an alarming prospect to many. This month your reporter was charged the equivalent of $6.75 to travel two stops along the privately operated London Underground; not what you would call good value for money.

No doubt the Liberals will be soon telling us that the private sector can do things more efficiently. Unfortunately, the profits for private corporations will likely be coming out of taxpayers’ pockets in the form of higher fares and subsidies. The sale of the 407 in 1999 was a painful example of the dangers of privatizing public assets.

One is left to wonder if the Premier feels his minority government will fare better when aligned with the Tories rather than with the NDP. If so, look for similar announcements in the coming months. Watch the video of MPP Schein’s question here.

Albanese explains why she didn’t sign letter to Premier

A couple of weeks ago, local politicians sent a letter to Premier McGuinty chiding him for allowing a diesel Air Rail Link and asking him meet with the affected communities. Mike Sullivan and Frances Nunziata both signed it. Laura Albanese, however, did not.

I asked Ms Albanese to explain why she did not sign the letter; she replied that the letter had been sent to her with little time to respond:

My office was contacted by MPP Jonah Schein one day before the letter was to be sent out, with all the signatures of the other officials already attached, which I feel did not give me very much time to speak with the other representatives to express my concerns on this matter. I felt that parts of the letter were not accurate, and although some changes were made to the letter before it was sent in its final form, I could not in good conscience sign the letter on MPP Schein’s timeline as it was presented.

She says that she will support Jonah Schein’s bill to electrify the Air Rail Link, however, though “MPP Schein needs to recognize that significant progress has been made toward our collective end goal of electrification.”

You can read the entire letter.

Schein’s Bill passes first reading

Davenport MPP Jonah Schein tabled a private member’s bill in the Ontario Legislature on Thursday May 3rd. The bill amends the Metrolinx Act of 2006 and passed its first reading (this is a formality – the hard part is yet to come). The bill’s wording is interesting as well as brief:

Bill 83 2012

An Act to amend the Metrolinx Act, 2006

Note: This Act amends the Metrolinx Act, 2006. For the legislative history of the Act, see the Table of Consolidated Public Statutes – Detailed Legislative History at www.e-Laws.gov.on.ca.

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:

1. The Metrolinx Act, 2006 is amended by adding the following section:

Passenger railway to airport

5.1 The Corporation shall ensure that any passenger railway system established between downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson International Airport is not powered by diesel fuel.

Commencement

2. This Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.

Short title

3. The short title of this Act is the Metrolinx Amendment Act, 2012.

 

Instead of asking for electrification, the bill asks that the Airport Link is not powered by diesel fuel.

As mentioned above, the next stage of the bill is the hard part. In the second stage Jonah Schein will be allowed to speak to the bill for up to ten minutes and then time is given for other parties to respond. Unless the bill passes its second reading unanimously, it will be referred to the ‘Committee of the Whole House’ where the bill is discussed more informally in the legislature and where it can be modified.

Stay tuned!

Schein to launch electrification bid in Legislature today

Today May 3, Davenport NDP MPP Jonah Schein is putting forward a private member’s bill that calls for electrification of the Georgetown corridor Air Rail Link. Schein has long been campaigning for electrification along the line and is hopeful that the bill will become law. Private member bills can pass without bringing down a government and although the NDP do not have a majority in the Legislature, the NDP caucus is likely to vote en masse for the bill since Andrea Horvath, Ontario NDP leader is on record as supporting electrification. It will be interesting to see how the Tories and especially York South Weston MPP Laura Albanese will vote in this regard.

Here is the text of the announcement that came in an email from the Clean Train Coalition:

 

Hello again! On Thursday, May 3rd a private member’s bill calling for electrification of the Georgetown corridor for the Air Rail Link will be introduced at the Ontario Legislature by Jonah Schein, the MPP for Davenport. We have just received word from Queens Park that this is moved up on the schedule and is now to take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday. You are welcome to attend and view from the gallery when the bill is introduced.

Right now, with a minority government in Queen’s Park, we can win this vote by reaching out, once more, to members from all parties. Please help us in this effort by contacting your MPP and cc Premier McGuinty. Tell them that they must vote in favour of this bill. Tell them we do not accept the plan to run diesel trains though our neighbourhoods, next to our schools, our parks, our houses and businesses. And we will not sit by while our air is further polluted. Rather, we will fight for what we know is right: clean, electric, accessible and affordable transit.

Please, take a moment to email your MPP, and cc Premier McGuinty ([email protected]). The addresses of politicians along the corridor are below. A complete list of MPP’s contact details can be found here. In addition to emailing, call Premier McGuinty (416-325-1941) and tell him yourself: Toronto demands clean electric trains, not dirty diesels!

The Clean Train Coalition has a long history of building cross-partisan support for our goals. We have worked productively with members of all political parties.
Thank you for your support. Clean Transit is possible.
The Clean Train Coalition

 

LIST OF MPPs along the Union to Pearson rail corridor

Sullivan: Apply pressure or Weston stuck with diesel white elephant.

Mike Sullivan painted a sorry picture of the Canadian political process in his latest Town Hall meeting held in Mount Dennis last night. He outlined the origins of the Airport Rail Link from its conception as a Federal project under David Collenette that was going to be fully paid for by private interests. There was only one bidder for the job (quelle surprise), SNC Lavalin. In 2005, when 2600 people showed up in Weston to protest the noise and pollution, an environmental assessment was promised. Weston was also added as a second stop along the way probably as a result of strong public concern. SNC Lavalin then dropped out and the province was given federal money to finish the project under Metrolinx.

Cost

According to Sullivan, the cost has ballooned from an original estimate of $300m to the current one of $1.2B. In January 2009, Metrolinx announced that it was adding 28km of new track to upgrade GO train service to all-day. As Adam has pointed out, Metrolinx has reversed itself by quietly announcing that all-day service will not happen – according to Mike Sullivan, the government’s rationale is that the tracks are needed for the ARL. So it looks as if the plan all along was to built track for the airport link and use the all day GO service as a cover.

Laura Albanese

In February 2011, our Liberal MPP Laura Albanese co-moved the following motion:

I move that, in the opinion of this House, the province embrace electrification as a strategy for powering commuter rail by:-acknowledging that the Georgetown South corridor be declared a priority corridor for electrification of commuter trains, recognizing its high residential density;-ensuring that the environmental assessment for electrification become consistent with current timelines of the six-month transit environmental assessment;-including human health and property impacts in the environmental assessment for electrification;-completing the electrification of the air-rail link by 2015; and-calling on all levels of government to partner in funding electrification infrastructure improvements.

Private members’ House opinion motions have no force in law. The 33 MPPs present at the time voted unanimously in favour although MPP Frank Klees saw through the motion,

 I don’t want to discourage the member, but I have to be truthful. I believe that this bill before us is simply an opportunity for the member to say to her constituents and other Liberal members, “Look, the government passed a resolution that calls for electrification. The election is eight months from now. For the next eight months, we can use this bill”-which will be passed by this Legislature, no doubt-“as evidence that we’re on your side.”

Ms Albanese may have used this motion to help in her recent election victory but now needs to publicly and forcefully raise the issue with the Premier.

Usability

As Mike Sullivan points out, the Airport link will be used by very few people and will be too expensive for the rest of us (Metrolinx has said that fares will be competitive with the same journey in a taxi or limo). Can you imagine captains of industry schlepping their own bags along miles of platform at either end and onto a train? This train will be a gigantic drag on taxpayers and is being rushed to completion to provide transportation during the 2015 Pan Am Games. According to Mr. Sullivan, the ARL will be ready 90 days before the games. Any hiccups causing delays along the way and the whole fake rationale will be lost.  If implemented properly, the train could be the answer to several problems including shortening travel time to and from Kitchener (currently a tedious 2 hours) as well as being an above-ground subway and a true downtown relief line at a much lower cost.

Jonah Schein

NDP Environment Critic Jonah Schein also spoke at the meeting and emphasized the need for political pressure, ‘Being right doesn’t mean that we will win’. Currently the NDP is the third party with only 17 members in the Legislature. He pointed out that in Toronto, people thought subways were a done deal until political pressure was applied. He is circulating an electrification petition and along with MP Andrew Cash will be co-hosting a Clean Train Festival on April 28 in his Davenport Riding. Jonah feels that it is important for everyone along the line to lend their support. Also present at the meeting was recent provincial NDP candidate Paul Ferreira.

Sullivan stresses the need to contact your elected representatives and let them know that your vote at the next election is contingent on creating meaningful transportation for Weston.

Commentary

For years, the Provincial Liberals have misled the public through their bait and switch tactics surrounding GO service and the ARL. The government clings to the artificial timeline claim that the ARL has to be ready for the 2015 Pan Am Games or else they would have embraced electrification, competitive bidding and other such niceties. We are represented at Queens Park by Laura Albanese, a government member who has been unable to generate any significant movement on this issue. She becomes a fiery orator during election campaigns and then reverts to a Clark Kent persona. Here in Weston, we like our politicians mouthy and opinionated with the ability to generate a headline. Perhaps she can take lessons from the style of Frances Nunziata. We may not agree with Frances’ every move but at least she isn’t afraid of confrontation.

We have an opportunity to shape the future by saying no to dirty air, lower property values and a billion dollar white elephant that the rich won’t use and the rest of us can’t afford. Politicians worry about only one thing; the loss of your vote. We need to make it clear that votes will go to people loudly advocating for an electric rail link that will be an asset to everyone in the community.