Another Report: Toronto needs to invest in infrastructure (more duh)

This one from the venerable OECD as part of its cities initiative looks at congestion and its costs in Canada’s largest city.  It concludes that gridlock costs the urban region $3.3 billion a year, and recommends a host of initiatives common to most wealthy countries to amelierate, including:

  • Dedicated taxes for transportation (tolls, congestion charges, higher gas taxes)
  • Better intergovernmental cooperation and funding
  • Better regional planning and less sprawl

All of this is old hat to someone like me and it should be noted that baby steps are being made in this direction by the provincial government especially through the regional growth plan, the creation of Metrolinx and a significant investment plan for transit.  On the revenue tools that are most likely to have the biggest impact, there has been the predictable silence.  The same old deference to the SUVurban constituencies who will scream “tax!” while curiously ignoring the multifarious subsidies implicit in their lifestyles. 

I am firmly of the opinion that Canadian cities will be held back until governments adopt the same commitment to long term sustainable funding as, say, healthcare.  This could put Canada in the company of global leaders in urban infrastructure such as France, Germany and even the United States, where the federal gas tax is dedicated to transport infrastructure, and increasingly urban transit.  In Germany, cities 1/10th the size of the GTA have better transit systems, and local, regional, and national networks are fully integrated. 

The ruse that Canada cannot somehow afford this must be exposed for what it is; indeed it is imperative that we come to see infrastructure as central to our economy and future growth, not the afterthought that it too often currently is. Not surprisingly, the OECD report also notes that Toronto is solidly in the lowest quartile of growth of the global cities that it is looking at.  This will only change when governments come to the table with catalyst scale investments.  More to come on this subject – but good to know that the OECD eggheads in Paris agree with something I have been observing for a long time (from inside and outside government).


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