Mayor Hazel McCallion told last night’s meeting of the Toronto Region Board of Trade thattransportation issues have caused a crisis across the GTA.
The mayor cited poor planning, communication and arrogance on the part of the provincial government, City of Toronto officials and other members of government, including herself, who neglected to make transportation the focus of land use.
“It’s not been the basis of land use planning and that’s why we’re in the mess that we’re in,” said McCallion at the meeting, billed as a “fireside chat” by its sponsor, the Urban Land Institute’s Toronto chapter.
“One of the greatest things that we did not do well, and all municipalities are guilty of this, was that transportation should have been the basis of all decisions back then. When we look at the GTA, we say ‘why are we in this problem?’ Transportation is one of the things that should be a land use decision, but it’s never been that way and it still isn’t.
“My opinion is that congestion in the GTA is a crisis and all these politicians and the planners will only wake up when the economic base has been affected. And it already has been affected right now.”
McCallion defended her record, saying she’s made every effort possible to make the GTA a cohesive unit and a strong, collaborative economic base.
However, she said planning has always been an issue for municipalities because of constant changes to legislation.
“I used to chair a committee of mayors from the GTA to try work together because we are an economic unit. It was voluntarily and then once the GTA Services Board came in, we had to disband our voluntary board,” she said.
“They brought in the transportation plan, but I’ve told the Province this many times: Until you make Metrolinx responsible for land use in the GTA, it’s not going to be successful.”
McCallion blamed over-development in the GTA for the transportation issues, saying infrastructure, especially public transit, was not made a priority.
Before McCallion became mayor in 1978, the planning for Mississauga was poorly managed without consideration for its impact, especially with the population rapidly on the rise.
“I was always complaining because the Town of Mississauga was not well managed and they had no policies,” said McCallion. “We took a development levy on $50 a house. That’s what we charged in Streetsville. It wasn’t legal, but we did it.”
With the collection of development charges for hospitals abolished more than a decade ago by Ontario, municipalities such as Mississauga struggle to find the funds for facility expansion.
And property tax increases aren’t going to cut it, said McCallion.
“It’s why I never promised to cut taxes. I often tell people they are going up,” she said.
Still, the biggest concern for McCallion is the potential damage to the GTA’s economic base, especially in Mississauga.
Traffic congestion in the city has made businesses think twice about doing business in Canada’s sixth-largest city despite proximity to highways and the airport.
“We have a lot of logistic companies in the GTA, especially in Mississauga, and if they can’t move their product, our economic base is going to be seriously affected in the GTA. All the planners think about is people. The politicians are just as guilty,” said McCallion.
Toronto is guilty, too, noted McCallion, and she made that clear after Toronto planning chief Jennifer Keesmat discussed that city’s plan to boost public transportation there.
“If (we) can move people to use different forms of transportation to get people off the roads, we can free up our roads for businesses,” Keesmat said.
“Good luck,” said McCallion.