Federal Debate Questions and Answers

Federal Election Transportation Debate

Below are questions that were posed to party candidates at the Federal Election Transportation Debate on September 17, 2019. Answers provided by the Liberal Party, NDP and Green Party are paraphrased (except where "quoted"). The Conservative Party and People's Party declined our invitation to participate at the debate so the questions were subsequently submitted to them for their answers. They did not respond. 
1. What is your party’s vision for ensuring a safe, seamless, equitable and sustainable transportation system that works for citizens and business? What role should evidence-based planning and realistic budgets play in achieving this vision?

Adam Vaughan
, Liberals – 3 critically important issues:

  • Size and enormity of challenge.
  • How to modeling dollars and getting to community so effectively spent / delivering results. Must make sure Ontario provincial government doesn’t steal funding.
  • Methods using to build stonger infrastructure - $180B for infrastructure most aggressive in Canada’s history; $28B for municipal transit = $4.9B over next 10 years for 10 years. Formula based. TTC must be in charge. Believe that  cities must make own choices. Cycling and pedestrian infrastructure now eligible.  

Diana Yoon, NDP  

NDP looking at sustainable, equitable system. Need equity first approach to transit planning – fare free public transit – who is most disproportionately and negatively impacted by current gaps.

  • Chronic underfunding of transit, maintenance of roads – no investments by Cons and Liberals.
  • Support public investment, against privatization  of public goods and service.
  • Climate change – huge source of emissions that must be tackled.

Tim Grant, Greens – transportation is topic that doesn’t get much attention, only “drips and drabs”.

  • Urban transit important but must open lens much wider.
  • Facing climate emergency – must get to global emissions target of  60% by 2030 and off fossil fuel by 2050.
  • Hub and Spoke – rail being the hub; electric bus to spine – hourly service; getting people to destination without a car; ultimately must electrify transit by 2040.
  • Funding, urban mobility.

Liberal Rebuttal to NDP: Agree with NDP. All orders of government haven’t made investments for decades. People run for elected office to make change, not to keep status quo. Liberal investment of $180B – the way we model into cities and people’s lives. "Conservative transit credit didn’t increase ridership, it robbed cities”. Must help people move faster."

2. Cities around the world have introduced mobility pricing projects like tolls and congestion charges, with the aim of reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions and raising money for multi-modal transportation projects. Would your party support such initiatives by, for instance, directing some of the $190 billion the federal government has pledged for infrastructure projects to cities?

NDP: Give municipalities the option to implement road pricing. If they want to do this, feds should encourage but not interfere. RP considered to gain revenue so wouldn’t have to consider if given proper funding.

Greens: Developed road toll petition in University Rosedale – overwhelming support. Not lack of infrastructure that is problem causing congestion – there are  too many cars on too few roads. Building transit won’t solve problem so need road pricing to manage demand.  Also build on Metrolinx suggestion to have 25 cent surcharge on all parking – increase to $2 surcharge so $2 billion can be raised for transit. Other policy spinoffs include encouraging development of underutilized parking lots. Feds must provide incentives.

Liberals: Road pricing is a municipal issue. Carbon pricing is proxy and supported by transit. Price will induce people to make different choices. Must model road pricing around demographics.

3. Technology is rapidly changing. How does your party plan to work with provinces and municipalities as they deal with automated and shared vehicles, micromobility and real-time data?

Greens: In support of technology but not just have EVs and AVs. Must get people out of cars. Don’t want tech to take over – equity issues.  Ride sharing a key part of solutions – done well a great thing. However, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber, Lyft a problem.  Must leave at cities to be best level of government to deal with.

Liberals: Investing in tech through municipalities and universities. $half million to City. If we believe climate change science is real then must use same principle re: transportation science.

NDP: Toronto is creating AV strategy. Electrification and AV assumptions that they converge. How intentionally look at pedestrian safety, reduce emissions.  TNCs like Uber, Lyft increase congestion. NDP committed to 300,000 jobs in clean economy. Create solutions where adequate . Cities are coming up with solutions – don’t blame TNCs where transit funding lacking. Micromobility must be complementary to transit. Goods.  Intersection of labour market – having well paid unionized jobs.

4. Streets are shared by pedestrians, cyclists, automobiles/TNCs, transit and goods movement vehicles – everyone is moving at different speeds and often distracted. This recipe has led to a high number of traffic deaths, particularly pedestrian deaths, in Toronto and other cities across Canada. How does your party plan to support provinces and municipalities trying to achieve Vision Zero safety objectives?

Liberals: Pedestrian/cycling now eligible for funding. King street. Must recalibrate engineering standards so cities are safe to move around. Lanes on Bloor, Queen’s Quay, Shaw installed. Must be an alliance between pedestrians and cyclists.

NDP: Natonal cycling strategy and working with muni’s. Poor urban street design. Truck / rail. Network not integrated. Food couriers on bikes. Puts people at risk. Support unionizing.

Greens: Great that active transportation (AT) is eligible for funding at federal level but doesn't go far enough. Need dedicated federal fund for AT so cities don’t give AT short end of stick. Aging pop means more pedestrian.

5. About 25% of Canada’s emissions are generated by the transportation sector, with 70-80% emitted from vehicles. To help decrease this percentage over the last 6 months, the Liberal government provides rebates on electric vehicle (EV) purchases with a target of all vehicle purchases being electric by 2040. In the first 6 months, 14,000 Canadians have taken advantage of an average $3,750 rebate ($52.5 million). Since these sales represents less than 3% of the 2 million new vehicles sold annually, would your party continue, modify or cancel this EV rebate policy?

Liberals: Step in with support and idea, best practice from around the world. Need transformational change – must push hard. California has most progressive policy. Jobs follow. Reality: Cities are largest generator so must build cities right. Rely on transit, reduce distances. Transportation is linked. TTC gets electric buses – help Canadian manufacturers. Transport is big emitter but linked to land use. Put economy and environment hand in hand. "Conservative would roll things back for 5 years and that would be a climate disaster untold."

NDP: How do we increase production of EVs and buses in Canada (not purchase from US and China)? Must expand EV bus fleets and electrification of gov’t fleets. Could GM plant be used to create new EVs and zero emission? The Atmosperic Fund (TAF) tracks emissions and look at strategies. When look at transit oriented development (TOD), what is impact on people (e.g. gentrification)?

Greens: Electric buses is part of solution – development more advanced than that. Toronto had electric trollies but persuaded to eliminate them. New generation of EVs are not big part of the answer. Need more ambitious federal targets on vehicle use and carbon reduction – must end sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030 which drives purchase and auto retooling. This target will drive market – investment, research. Have 11 years to get to Paris target.

6. The Georgetown “Missing Link” freight bypass project was abandoned by the Ontario government in December 2018 even though all day two-way GO Train service between Kitchener and Toronto cannot be realized without it. For those who don’t know - the bypass would have created a separate, 30-km rail corridor for freight trains, freeing up CN track between Georgetown and Bramalea to run frequent GO service. Just as important, the bypass would have seen freight companies move dangerous goods traffic north of Toronto to the highway 407 utility corridor instead of running it through one of the densest urban corridors in Canada as is presently the case. The project was shelved despite support for the project from CN, CP, Mississauga, Cambridge, Milton and Toronto. If elected, would you party take any steps to revive this project?

NDP: Important to listen to municipalities on the ground. How can federal government support communities? Must look at where there are funding gaps. Doug Ford is reducing funding and interfering. (How gauge which projects are most important?)

Greens: Might support. Must support gaps and bottlenecks but also must make existing corridors safer – this has not been done after Lac Megantic. Too many run away trains. Canada hasn’t even done what Donald Trump has done (e.g. sensors, alarm). There is a lack of federal government enforcement which must be beefed up.

Liberals: Party is on the record for supporting missing link – must be addressed. Ford has disrupted good work. Tough decisions about future of rail and impacts – vibrations, construction impacts. Rail corridor adjacent to Dupont Street is scary and frightening. Steps being taken: increasing safety personnel; railway act re-written. However, we must move hazardous cargo away from rail corridors. Former CPC Transport Minister Lisa Raitt “did nothing”.

7. The City of Los Angeles banned big-rig and delivery trucks from streets, roads and highways during rush hours from 6am-9am and 4pm to 7pm. This reduced traffic by approximately 60% during the 1984 Olympic Games, and has been in place for 25 years. It’s a fast, low cost, (temporary) congestion solution. Would you (and your party) support this?

NDP: TAF worked on off-peak delivery project with Peel Region. Definitely could work. Work towards clean air. This is one way. Support personally. There are other ways – look at smaller trucks. Other ways to get goods movement moving – cycling, Pembina Institute.

Greens: This policy is in thhe right direction. LA has largest port. 30 minutes to hook up to electric power. Rather than banning trucks, better solution is to improve rail, intermodal terminals. Don’t want fleets going from Windsor to Montreal. 

Liberals: Trucks require space. Municipal issue. Sidewalk Labs offers exploration of issue. Noition of Electronic vehicle redistributing. Ship differently. Delivery. Climate change must be tackled.

8. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is calling for parties to commit to a permanent public transit financing mechanism. Mayors of big cities like Edmonton’s Don Iveson and Toronto’s John Tory want the existing public transit infrastructure fund which is being used here to pay for SmartTrack and Bloor-Yonge station expansion to be extended beyond its 2027 horizon to create a steady stream of funding that would allow cities to pursue long-term transit capital and maintenance plans instead of waiting for new federal commitments every few years. Would your party create such a permanent fund as part of National Transit Strategy? If so, how much would you commit? Would there be strings attached to ensure that economic, environmental, and social benefits are achieved?

Greens: Bring charter status to cities. Greens had strongest infrastructure commitment in last election: 1% of GST dedicated. FCM is asking for gas tax but dangerous as EVs will proliferate meaning funding source will get weaker over time.

Liberals: Have a 10 year plan for long term. Local benefits (jobs) and green lens. Rebalance fiscal . Deliberate governance improvements to ensure “4 cornered table” with feds, provinces/territories, municipalities and First Nations making decisions.

NDP: Permanent, stable funding source but full platform not yet revealed. Work with all parties to deliver reliable and public infrastructure – not for profit. Electrification is a trend so support target of only EVs being sold by 2040. More EV production in Canada could take place if Oshawa GM plant is converted.

9. Earlier this month a group of Conservative candidates wrote to the federal government and asked Ottawa to commit funding to the Ontario Line (OL), the 15.5 km rail line Premier Doug Ford announced in April and would replace the relief line subway project. It’s estimated to cost about $11 billion. The federal Liberal government has said the province hasn’t yet provided enough details of the OL plan to make a funding commitment. Would your party commit funding to this project to ensure it gets built? 

Liberal: "The OL is a joke. Doug Ford’s government has submitted a 2.5 page document requesting $11 billion… They couldn’t even tell you how the tracks will run from corner of Queen and Spadina diagonally to corner of King and Bathurst. Think about:
a) how deep you have to go to get into the condominium parking garages there.
b) how far below water level you are at that point.
c) how far below the crest of the shoreline you’d be when you reach the Ontario Science Centre.

They can’t tell you what they are going to build at Ontario Place yet they know they’ll put a transit station there but where? next to Gardiner? Next to streetcar loop? Next to Ontario Place? That is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in changes that would have to be put together."

Follow-up question: Would Liberals fund OL if Premier Doug Ford provided a more detailed plan? Or is this a non-starter?

Liberals: "It’s a hypothetical question about a theoretical line that really, quite frankly, someone needs to tell Doug Ford that magic markers aren’t magic... You don’t build transit this way. You build transit with evidence-based data. Do it with real costing. Toronto was far down that line with the Relief Line (which is supposed to be replaced by OL). You must look at transit rich communities that aren’t being served e.g.  Thorncliffe in particular, but others as well.

Nobody has ever asked for subway along Queen. I don’t know how you turn the corners. Do you dig up the street or do you collapse the road? There is a wooden sewer that runs under King Street. The reason you can’t move The Path system forward from King Street is because there is a wooden sewer that serves most of the riding I represent (York/Spadina). If you dig underneath it, it will collapse and you close the King Street Car.

What do you do with the Queen Street Car after you build a subway below it?

The questions that cascade from this ridiculous proposal are why we as a federal government look at Ford's provincial government and our jaw drops. It’s insane. We’ll fund real transit projects that are based on evidence and come from cities. Because cities run, deliver and understand how it works and they must integrate themselves with the TTC.

Finally, the $4.9 billion we gave to TTC must stay in Toronto – we have surface routes to run and maintenance to take good care of. Can’t allow province to steal that and the biggest job we have over next four years is to make sure Doug Ford doesn’t destroy the city with his inane plans. Liberals will use federal spending authority and federal standards to protect the city and that is one of the reasons I’m seeking re-election."

NDP: OL isn't what city really needs. TTC had Relief Line almost shovel ready. Too much overcrowding. TTC not where it should be. Ford taking us backwards. Municipalities chronically underfunded so committed to permanent funding.

Greens: Would not support OL for Liberals’ reasons. 2.5 pages shows not a serious proposal. 30 years of upended plans. Crosstown will be delivered 2 years later than first predicted due to 16 Metrolinx interventions and adjudications. Need policy coherence between all levels of government. “It looks like we’re heading towards minority government which could ensure leadership and consensus.”

10. What is the best role for the federal government in encouraging or requiring Canada’s railways to better accommodate the needs of passenger rail services? At the same time, intercity bus service is dying in small cities and towns. What is your party’s plan to reverse this trend?

Liberals: Everyone knows where I stand – LRT. But municipal issue so not up to feds to draw lines on city maps. NDP all over the map, support, don’t support. Mihevc, McConnell and Fletcher opened up possibility of Scarborough Subway. Jane Jacobs. City council decision and Doug Ford another matter.

NDP: Ford changed composition of council so Diana Yoon could not run in the municipal election. NDP's role: direct and sustainable funding.

Greens: Agree that feds should not be drawing lines on maps. However, “I think the federal government does have a role here. For example, the federal government (and provincial government) could say, we are not going to give money to any municipality for any rapid transit project unless you can show you have developed plans to build density around each transit stop.” Failure of transit planning for last 40 years. We will not fund. Want system to pay for itself. Funding not contingent. The day opened, cost TTC. Failure. Must service most people.

11. The federal government, like doctors, has a responsibility to “do no harm”. In light of that and evidence-based decision making, why is the federal government still funding the Scarborough Subway Extension?

Liberals: Everyone knows where I stand – LRT is best choice here. But municipal issue so not up to feds to draw lines on city maps. NDP all over the map, support, don’t support. Mihevc, McConnell and Fletcher opened up possibility of Scarborough Subway. Jane Jacobs. City council decision and Doug Ford another matter.

NDP: Ford changed composition of Toronto council so she could not run. Our role is to provide direct and sustainable funding.

Greens: Agree that feds should not be drawing lines on maps. However, “I think the federal government does have a role here. For example, the federal government (and provincial government) could say, we are not going to give money to any municipality for any rapid transit project unless you can show you have developed plans to build density around each transit stop.” Failure of transit planning for last 40 years. We will not fund. Want system to pay for itself. Funding not contingent. The day opened, cost TTC. Failure. Must service most people.

12. Since 1972, the federal government has land-banked 9,000 acres of land for the Pickering Airport. Meanwhile, Pearson will reach its capacity of 85 million travellers by 2035 – almost 11 million people  travelled between July 1 and Sept 1.  While there is a plan to expand Pearson and develop a system of airports in Southern Ontario it is unlikely this will satisfy demand.  Where does your party stand on building the Pickering Airport and when will it be in operation? 

NDP: Conservatives didn’t do their homework when they announced Pickering Airport. Didn’t listen to community or Rouge Park integrity at risk / impacts. Airplanes are huge source of emissions do must decarbonize sector. Look at sustainable development. Though it would have economic benefits for Durham Region, must consider sustainable development and environmental impacts.

Greens: 30 years ago tried to put Pickering issue "to bed". Crazy that Pickering Airport is still being considered. Germany tripling existing tax for short-haul flights. Canada exempts emissions related to airline flights and marine as well. Must be taxed to help reduce GHG emissions.

Liberals: Reviewing study – business case, social/environmental impact. Tricky since Pearson at capacity but must protect communities due to noise. Stop using Billy Bishop Airport since short haul impacts “off the charts” – ask NDP Jagmeet to stop using it. Agree with focus on reduction of short haul flight.

NDP Rebuttal to Liberals: NDP uses charter flights. Not sure why using Billy Bishop during campaign but not a concern that has been heard on the campaign trail.

13. The use of marine vessels for moving goods is currently at 50% of capacity. What will your party do to increase goods movement on this underutilized mode, especially as water levels in the Great Lake/St. Lawrence River rise due to climate change?

Greens: Marine can help meet GHG targets using marine now that shipping season is longer (ice free state). Electrify ferries and ships (not so much with large freighters). Bring within Paris Accord. Need cleaner fuels.

Liberals: Big challenge is St. Lawrence Seaway – built at same time as Gardiner Expressway. Terrible shape since used same rebar/cement. Public and private ownership.  If want to move trucks off of 401 and free up rail capacity, need to widen so freighters can share space with lakers. Rebuilding necessary due to flooding/freezing. Rebuilding is very complicated and expensive. Need coordinating body and Infrastructure Bank could play role in solving challenges.

NDP: Important to protect fresh water. How keep up? Make sure not giving profit to government friends. St. Lawrence Seaway must be maintained for generations to come.

14. Does your party support public-private partnerships to get transportation projects completed (as opposed to reliance on long-term debt financing)? If not, would your party disband the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) that has been created to invest $10 billion in public transit systems, trade and transportation corridors (in partnership with the private sector)?

Liberals: Great point of irony is that Jack Layton Ferry is P3. P3s can be good or bad. Good are joint ventures and provide a bit of profit. Not about serving friends. Must move fast so we become resilient. SNC: P3s are high risk. Must be realistic on how we solve challenges. Need biz and gov’t working together.

NDP: Wouldn’t get rid of CIB but change it. Sidewalk Labs giving out land; stripping away public value.

Greens: Will keep CIB but not P3 model. Ontario report shows that P3s cost 10% more than conventional delivery. Use airport tax to make airports resilient. SNC Lavalin had tentacles into political parties but into bureaucracy. Must stop influence so having

15. The Conservative Party has promised to bring back the transit tax credit that Stephen Harper enacted. The Liberals and analysts say that this credit did not increase ridership and didn’t benefit low-income groups. Would your party support the tax credit again or are there better ways to support those who need it most?

NDP: Put equity at forefront of transit. Cost should not be barrier. Free transit would go a long way. If municipalities want it, NDP will work with them to get free transit. Choice to make. We will work to put people first, not profit. If people have more/permanent funding, can move to free transit. Climate targets with AT.

Greens: Tax wasn’t delivering. Classic Conservative: retail politics: credits get votes. Free transit doesn’t get cars off the road. People in Scar, Pickering don’t have access so won’t use it. Support notion but evidence doesn’t show. Car drivers have vested interest in transit to as it decreases congestion on the roads.

Liberals: Transit tax credit priviledges a few people. What works is more service. NDP plan interesting that it is voluntary. "Free Transit" slogan like "Buck A Beer" – could cost $8B. Better to target groups: youth, seniors. If you don’t provide service, won’t work. TTC able to take advantage of funding to keep fares down. Need targeted/coherent policies.

16. The basic bicycle is the most efficient vehicle, but it remains too dangerous. Will your party ensure that any federal funding is linked to safe cycling with hard targets, including cycling injury pattern and cyclist review of city priorities? 

Liberals: Cycling $ available. City must set priorities. National Housing Strategy includes transportation accessibility. Problem in rural areas.

NDP: Set clear targets. That is why we need national cycling strategy. Work with municipalities and province. Need safe infrastucture to promote emission reductions and for health .

Greens: Already addressed this question. Good to finally see federal government at table.

17. Governance provides a framework for stakeholders at different levels of government to work cohesively and earmark limited resources to transportation policy and projects. How should federal government work with other levels of government for best possible outcomes for citizens? How can this working relationship be improved to gain efficiencies and trust?

Greens: It is unique in Canada that there isn't a National Transit Strategy. In US have joint powers of authority. Must be partnership between Metrolinx and Via and other transit providers. Need leadership. Hub and Spoke – shouldn’t have bus lines competing with Via. Feds must tell bus companies. 

Liberals: Likes Green Party governance ideas and may steal them! Must have cities at table on all issues – 4 cornered table. PM at every FCM conf and AV at every Big Mayor’s conf. Can’t step on each other’s toes – respect federation, different orders then have to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. First words: Whereas the provinces… Ford makes a mess. 

NDP: Better partnership required – indigenous and muni’s need funding/tools to implement solutions. Interprovince jurisdiction e.g. Bus routes for indigenous – missing and murdered indigenous women. Liberals should step up to ensure. Interprovincial issues. Need to respect and have stronger relationships. We can do better.

Liberal Rebuttal: Constitution driven by province – must work with Saskatchewan and others. We have led by bringing people to table, signing agreements, big investment. Proud of it.


Tim Grant, Greens: Need partnerships. Need dedicated funding for active transportation. Federal funding will provide support.

Diana Yoon, NDP: Grew up with only 1 car. Need better transit. GHGs. NDP has equity lens on transit and climate change. Not Elon Musk and Tesla will solve crisis. We’re not going to be profitable low carbon economy. Need EVs produced here. Fare free transit.

Adam Vaughan, Liberals: Spent most of life fighting for strong, equitable and beautiful city – transport part of that. Moving and need connections – food being most important. Must figure out. Fear is that previous government that don’t understand, no policies – didn’t show up at debate tonight. Will be devastating for Toronto, world, climate change. Big $180B invetment – need progressive policy that works on the ground. The forces that will take us back (Ford, Scheer). Don’t give Trump an ally.