This week’s guest commentary comes from Lorne Small, CFFO President
The city of Toronto is debating a Public transit plan for the next 30 years. The current proposal calls for a federal, provincial and city jointly funded plan. I live a two hour drive outside Toronto, so why should I care about Toronto mass transit? I care about loss of good farm land, I care about congestion on rural roads and I care about the health and productivity of our urban businesses.
The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is expected to grow by 2 million people in the next 2 decades. That is equivalent to the city of Montreal moving to the Toronto area. Where will all these new citizens live? The GTA can either build “out” or build “up”. If the city decides to builds “out”, the Province will need more multi-lane commuter roads and larger bedroom communities resulting in congested rural roadways. If the city decides to build “up” and increase the density of the city, then convenient and affordable mass transit will be needed.
Farm families have always opposed the idea of paving over more farmland to accommodate a growing population. A growing population is however a great opportunity to expand the home market that we supply. We can increase production without the costs of finding export markets. It is a win for farm families.
Creating more bedroom communities in the countryside is a problem for everyone. Farmers face the frustration of more commuters on their roads, more people in rural communities who object to normal farming practices and more difficulty moving farm machinery from field to field. Commuters are spending unproductive time in their cars and burning more fossil fuels than the planet needs.
The Congestion and grid lock of Toronto roads caused by commuters is costing all of us a loss of productivity in our industries and services. Toronto is the engine of the Ontario economy. Business is shouldering added costs because of the delays. Farmers who frequently must cross through Toronto know the frustration and cost implications. We need fewer workers commuting in their cars to the city, which would be a big win for farmers and businesses which provide goods and services in the city.
Living in a large city can be more affordable than living in the countryside when a family car is no longer needed. Car transportation is much more expensive than mass transit. It is in our interest to encourage cities to expand mass transit and let the cities grow upward not outward. It is also fair play for all citizens in Ontario and Canada to pay some of the cost. We all benefit from the commercial activity of urban areas. They pay more than their equal share of taxes making it possible for all of us to enjoy excellent health care, education and many other public services.
Mass transit is good public policy. We should all help our city cousins to build affordable and effective transportation systems. Improved and expanded mass transit is an innovative way to address the future and continue to have a great place to live for all Ontario citizens.