Planes, trains and automobiles: transportation policy for the 1950s

Post by Eric Mang in ,

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Toronto waterfront
There are plans to expand Porter Air's operations at the Toronto Island Airport located near downtown

The MSM loves a good disaster story. Newspaper baron and purveyor of “yellow journalism”, William Randolph Hearst, once said: “Whatever begins to be tranquil is gobbled up by something not tranquil.” And so it goes with swine flu.

A zoonotic virus that has infected very few people and killed even fewer (I’m not going to cite numbers here because I would be playing this silly game and would be ignoring the fact that infection outbreaks run on a curve) is absorbing public consciousness while events that shape our cities have fallen down the what’s newsy ladder.

In the midst of all of this manufactured pandemonium, there are some interesting stories afoot here in, er, Hogtown (maybe this is the time to ditch this appellation, William Davies Company be damned).

The latest is the unsurprising reaction of the federal Conservatives to the expansion of the Toronto Island Airport versus funding for new streetcars. The former had federal Transportation Minister Baird and Finance Minister Flaherty gushing over $45 million plans to expand Porter Air’s operations at the Island Airport. The latter had Baird saying that the new streetcars might not qualify for those yet-to-be-distributed federal “stimulus” funds.

To be fair, the Porter expansion plans supposedly aren’t costing the federal government anything, according to Flaherty (and since the Toronto Port Authority Board is full of former Conservative staffers, I’m sure Flaherty was thrilled to prop up his pals). While with the streetcars, the feds would need to cover at least one-third of the $1.2 billion contract.

Heralding a mode of transportation that is an environmental enemy (yes, it’s useful and I do indeed fly. But do we need more flights? Why aren’t people using simple technology such as iChat in lieu of jetting off everywhere?) while remaining undecided about clean public transport is not an unusual position for these Parliament-suspending-to-avoid-a-loss-of-confidence-vote rogues. These are the same ideologues, after all, who continue to wrestle with the concept of anthropogenic climate change while the rest of the world, save Big Oil, have recognized that the evidence is compelling.

Toronto has until June 27 to secure funding for the streetcars. While the nine city councillors who sit on the TTC are exuding confidence that money will be found (under the couch cushions perhaps?), a waffling, uncertain comment by the federal government is not encouraging.

So while the Conservatives are thrilled to talk about jobs and infrastructure spending for the Toronto Island Airport, they can’t get themselves enthused over a project that would mean jobs for Thunder Bay and a green mode of transportation used by millions of Torontonians.

This is about choices and the Conservatives are telling Toronto that they prefer yesterday’s way of doing things more than the “green” ideas of tomorrow

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There was controversy over this contract a couple of years ago due to sole source contracting. What was the upshot of that debate?
We want a streetcar here in Vancouver too and will be looking for the same scarce federal dollars. SA

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