Ford government passes bill to speed up transit projects

Jul 7 2020, 12:30 pm

The Government of Ontario passed a bill to speed up some of the its priority transit projects on Tuesday.

According to the Province, the bill known as the Building Transit Faster Act 2020 (Bill 171), will also support economic recovery.

Four of Ontario’s priority transit projects will be expedited under the legislation.

“Getting more transit built faster will help reduce gridlock, deliver a modern rapid transit system for the province and become a major contributor to our economic recovery,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford in a statement.

“These four priority transit projects will create thousands of jobs, provide more housing options for people, and open up countless opportunities for businesses throughout the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.”

The new Ontario Line, the Yonge North Subway Extension to Markham and Richmond Hill, the three-stop Scarborough Subway Extension to Markham, and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension to Pearson airport will all be included in the project.

“The passage of this legislation gets us closer to building much-needed transit infrastructure to reduce congestion and contribute to the economic recovery and renewal of our province,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure.

The legislation will also be supporting Premier Ford’s “New Subway Transit Plan for the GTA.” This plan represents the largest subway expansion in Canada history.

According to the Government of Ontario, the Act will expedite the projects by:

  • Enabling relocation of utilities more efficiently, while treating businesses fairly, and ensuring costs are not passed on to consumers;
  • Better enabling the assembly of land required to construct stations, conduct tunneling and prepare sites, while treating property owners fairly;
  • Ensuring timely access to municipal services and rights-of-way;
  • Allowing the province to conduct due diligence work and remove physical barriers with appropriate notification to property owners; and,
  • Ensuring nearby developments or construction projects are coordinated so they do not cause delays.

“With the passage of this bill, we can get shovels in the ground sooner and get skilled people back to work as we restart the economy and recover from COVID-19,” said Kinga Surma, Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA).

Two of the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) have said that Ford is “setting the stage for costly mistakes by gutting the planning process for transit with the passage today of Bill 171.”

“The passage of Ford’s transit bill is bad news for transit riders who are tired of cramming onto subways and watching buses pass by them, because it will cause years-long delays in getting new transit built,” said Transit critic Jessica Bell.

“This is just taking things from bad to worse after Ford cancelled good shovel-ready transit projects and cut funding to transit by 40%.”

According to the NDP, they have tried to “reduce harm” that has been caused by Ford’s transit bill by proposing 33 amendments.

The amendments include the following:

  • community benefits agreement for transit projects
  • fair expropriations process
  • the development of a residents’ bill of rights during construction
  • fair environmental assessment process
  • compensation for businesses harmed by the impact of transit construction

The NDP said that the Ford government voted down every amendment.

“Residents and businesses are committed to transit that works for Toronto,” said Peter Tabuns, Toronto-Danforth NDP MPP. “A bill that cuts the public out of the planning process and tramples on their rights undermines support for the transit we need.”

Irelyne LaveryIrelyne Lavery

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