CFBB Comment – July 6, 2016 – Approval of the June 20th Planning and Infrastructure Committee Report (McLaughlin and Kennedy EA’s)
CFBB applauds the decision reached at the last Planning and Infrastructure Committee to accept the staff recommendation to proceed with Environmental Assessments on the two remaining LRT routes – up McLaughlin or Kennedy to arrive at the Brampton Downtown GO Mobility Hub. Ratifying that decision by approving the Minutes of the Committee meeting at Council on July 6th now allows staff to focus on moving these two projects ahead, quickly and in a well- organized fashion. Regular and frequent progress reports to Planning and Council and to the public will be essential to ensure the directive from Council is both respected and honoured in a timely manner. It is our belief that both studies can be completed within an 18 month period as to allow THIS Council the opportunity to finally determine what alignment choice is best.
It is not a secret that, in CFBB’s opinion, the history of this file has not been exemplary, and on critical review, it should provide instruction for future significant infrastructural incursions by higher government levels. Of utmost importance is that decisions relating to major infrastructure commitments and their local impact should rest entirely with the Municipal government and their elected representatives.
The announcement by Metrolinx on their proposed LRT route through Downtown to the GO station, “fully funded” and on a “take it or leave it basis”, was a surprise to Council and the community, for the route had been overwhelmingly turned down by the previous Council 10-1 . The present Council was simply “not ready” to approve the route without further study and analysis. Further, upon review, neither was Metrolinx ready, for there were too many unknowns and incomplete answers dealing with ridership projections, operating responsibilities for shortfalls, and potential capital cost exposures that would befall the Brampton taxpayer. It was clear that the announcement had been premature, and a rejection of the offer, along with the disproportionate amount that was projected to be allotted to Brampton (less than $400 million), was not only a responsible decision by Council, but a prudent one.
Subsequently, after yet another attempt by staff to put forward a tunneling option through Downtown at considerable cost, Council decided to have staff carry out complete studies and analyses on three alternative routes – McLaughlin, Kennedy, and through a small section of the Etobicoke Creek valley. It was expected that comparisons of all three routes would be presented by staff to Council at the June 20th Planning and Infrastructure Committee meeting, who would then fully debate the merits of each, hopefully make a decision, and have staff proceed to undertake an Environmental Assessment of the chosen route for comment and input from the public. That, of course, did not happen. Staff not only did not do the detailed comparisons of the three alternatives, but chose instead to remove consideration of the Valley route because of a negative reaction by the TRCA Board. If staff had completed a detailed report as instructed by Council on March 7th, proper debate and discussion could have had Council agreeing to move forward with only ONE route alignment. Instead, they recommended EA’s for the two remaining routes, doubling the cost to the taxpayer.
In order to move this LRT file ahead, prevent further wastage of time and money, and have a “shovel ready” Council approved project available for funding when the next tranche of transit funding from the higher level governments might be allotted, Council approved the staff recommendation. At least, both prospective routes avoid dealing with the challenging flood plain, which has brought so much grief and angst to Council and impacted communities in the past.
CFBB will be keeping a close watching brief on staff progress on these assessments, and will be prepared to comment on progress reports and the final debate when the detailed route studies are complete and presented.
Chris and Doug – July 6, 2016