Politics - Federal

Baird Blocking Streetcars (Again)

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 09, 2009

The City of Toronto decided to take a chance and apply to the federal government for infrastructure money for just one project: a little over $300 million toward replacing 204 streetcars.

Under the Building Canada Fund rules, the Province and the city would each have to contribute matching funds, to a total of $1.2 billion. Toronto made a tentative contract with Bombardier to buy the replacement streetcars pending federal and provincial approval.

This, of course, is precisely the sort of thing we should be doing with our stimulus money: investing in long-term infrastructure that will continue to deliver value for decades.

Unfortunately, as Transport Minister John Baird explained testily in earshot of microphone, Toronto's bid didn't follow the federal government's criteria, which entail a wishlist of projects that will drive job creation within the city over the next two years.

"Twenty-seven hundred people [from other cities] got it right," said Baird after walking into a media workroom. "[Toronto] didn't. That is not a partnership and they're bitching at us. They should f--- off."

Baird later qualified his dismissal. "This project, while it fits into Toronto's vision of what they want to do, it doesn't fit into our vision of moving quickly. We don't want to see Toronto left out of infrastructure stimulus."

He added, "What I don't want to see is a year or two from now people say that the federal government plans aren't creating jobs in Toronto."

He didn't say whether it would fit into the Federal government's vision of moving quickly to create jobs in Thunder Bay, where the streetcars would be built.

"F--- off" is also pretty much the attitude Baird took toward the City of Ottawa's plan to build a light rail system there, a plan that Baird sabotaged after interfering with local politics by leaking the city's contract with the manufacturer and forcing the issue into a de facto election referendum in the 2006 municipal election after all parties had already signed off on it.

After arranging the defeat of the light rail project, Baird went on to replace Rona Ambrose as the federal Environment Minister after the latter proved ineffectual at deflecting public criticism of the government's inaction on environmental issues.

Baird's job, as Andrew Coyne pointed out at the time, was "to ensure [climate change] does not become an issue."

Apparently now his job is to ensure that the government's infrastructure plan focuses on the real goal: not being effective, but appearing to be effective.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 09, 2009 at 13:54:56

Honestly it boogles the mind to know that such person has power in this country. It certainly it is not what he knows but who he knew that got him where he is today. Which to me is sickening as this person has no couth, no manners and would appear to be nothing but a loud mouth bully.

Actually I would to see him having to access Ontario Works and actually having to particpate in his beloved workfare program.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted June 09, 2009 at 14:04:09

It's good that we have someone like you, Ryan, to bring these sort of things to light for the rest of us.

I was always perplexed as to why public transportation in Toronto wasn't being revered as 'lower-class transport' as it is considered in Hamilton, other areas. It occurs to me now that PT was marketed as a lower-grade option.

The truth is in the details. Toronto (especially downtown) residents prefer the street-car to a personal vehicle because the infrastructure of the TTC is dependable and augmented by the positivity of its users through reliability and less person-to-person dependence of responsibility for repairs.

I do think personal transport has its place, but surely we'd all benefit in having a cheaper and more efficient PT.

The perception of PT in our area is that it is 'in the way' of our personal agenda. I remember when I was a younger car-less observer, the outrage of adults as they sat behind the 'road-blocking bus'.

It's the human condition to hate what stands in our way, rather than understand why we feel it stands in our way.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted June 13, 2009 at 10:52:31

The more disturbing part of this story is WHY 'mainstream' media hasn't picked up on this?

Why is the 'Sexy Isotope/Colleague Bashing' story bigger than the Federal Environment Minister telling Canada's biggest City's politicians to "F**K OFF"?!

Has anyone contacted their MPs about this fool? Do these Conservative MPs/Cabinet Ministers not realize just how thin the ice under their feet are right now?

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