The Great Media Debate


Thanks to all speakers and delegates who attended our Great Media Debate on June 24!   Besides hearing an update on Metrolinx's communication strategy, we did a deep and interactive dive into the media's role in shaping public support for complex funding measures and different transport modes.  This included a far-ranging discussion of The Big Move, transport governance, GTA planning history, densities, market-based reforms, revenue tools, PPPs, political will, public trust/willingness to pay, system management, technology, NGO campaigns, international case studies, upcoming elections, ideology, solutions and much more.  Talk about connecting the dots!
In terms of revenue tools, the majority of media panelists felt they are needed to pay for the Big Move Plan but did not always agree with the ones chosen by Metrolinx in May 2013: a 1% sales tax, a 5 cent gas tax, 15% development charge increase and a 25 cent/day non-residential parking levy.  To paraphrase our panelists:

  • Sue-Ann Levy supports the implementation of user fees (such as road pricing) -- if accountability mechanisms are in place -- and is against any new general taxes (e.g. HST increase).
  • Terence Corcoran encourages the creation of a system in which people pay for what they use – but road pricing revenues should be dedicated to roads, not transit.
  • Marcus Gee thinks earmarked revenue tools is the only way transit will be financed and built -- the idea that the private sector will do this is "not going to happen in the real world".
  • John Lorinc stated the importance of learning from other countries that have implemented revenue tools and having the Ontario Auditor General report regularly on the use of all funds.
  • Todd Latham noted that Metrolinx and the province may not be able to sell revenue tools to the public if road pricing is included in the mix - despite known successes in Europe.

Looking forward, Metrolinx and its partners will support the provincial government as they start another round of revenue tool consultations in advance of elections in 2014.  Opponents will continue to oppose them every step of the way.  Based on our debate, there is no doubt that some media will report all the details about these evolving political and public positions in a balanced way while others, having strong viewpoints of their own, will attempt to sway opinion with a range of arguments "for" and "against".  Transport Futures will continue to play a leading role by facilitating its fifth anniversary mobility pricing summit on November 18, 2013.  Stay tuned!

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