October 4, 2010

Full text of mayoral candidate responses to Toronto Board of Trade questions

Here is the full text of the responses from front-running mayoral candidates George Smitherman and Rob Ford to some of the five questions posed in the Toronto Board of Trade infrastructure blog post by Andy Manahan, executive director of the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario.

George Smitherman

What is your plan with respect to road, transit, sewer and water infrastructure?

My top priorities for infrastructure are transit expansion, state of good repair for roads/TTC/water assets and recreation facilities, particularly in the areas of the city where there are major gaps for amateur sports enthusiasts. Transit expansion must be the focus on new infrastructure, given the worsening congestion and the growing population in the Greater Toronto Area. Clearly, state of good repair on key infrastructure cannot be deferred as it makes for a “snowball” effect and bigger problem in the future. Our roads/TTC/water assets must be maintained, and I will ensure that capital funding to SGR for these services is in place.

On Sept. 14, I announced that, as mayor, I will ensure that business owners will be compensated for road repairs and road cuts that are delayed. Working closely with the Toronto Association of BIAs and key stakeholders, a clear penalty will be established for road contractors who fail to complete projects on time. These penalties will be passed on to affected businesses.

I will also establish a new system of 24/7 construction on major arteries, such as the Gardiner at Jamieson, to speed up completion and minimize “days of disruption.

I am also planning to drive forward a transition from fossil fuelled electricity to “green” energy – funded by the revenue from the province’s Feed-in-Tariff (FIT). This will greatly benefit SMEs in the technology, energy service, and renewable energy sectors.

What funding mechanisms would be best to ensure that infrastructure is built and maintained?

As for financing for transit, I will establish “design-build-finance” partnerships with the private sector to undertake major transit expansion projects per my Transit Delivered Plan.

After obtaining independent valuations, the city should carefully consider the sale of certain assets, such as under-used land, and allocate the proceeds to a “Transit Trust” – a dedicated financing mechanism for new transit infrastructure and other capital reserve funds. That way, insignificant holdings may be exchanged for an investment in more useful assets (transit infrastructure).

As for state-of-good-repairs, roads and water, as mayor, I will examine the capital budget in detail with the goal of carefully reducing slack in the five- and ten-year capital plans with the intention of reducing the debt burden on the city without deferring legitimate state-of-good-repair-projects I will re-examine the nine per cent annual rate increase in water rates to ensure that this revenue is required for infrastructure redevelopment.

Are there changes you would make to procurement/tendering processes to ensure that Torontonians get better value for money and that more infrastructure can be built with limited dollars?

As mayor, I will establish closer ties with Metrolinx for the build out of transit infrastructure, and focus the TTC instead on day-to-day operations/maintenance. This will put construction of major transit infrastructure on a footing similar to other cities in the GTA, concentrating expertise and management focus in the provincial agency while the city and TTC take the role of client and customer.

When procurement contracts are signed (in any area, not only transit), I will insist on the inclusion of youth apprenticeships, supplier diversity, and “no strike” clauses. This approach to project agreements will encourage closer co-operation and alignment of building trades unions, corporate bidders, and City bureaucracy to achieve our infrastructure goals.

Rob Ford

Note: Ford’s answers were provided by his campaign team on his behalf.

What is your plan with respect to road, transit, sewer and water infrastructure?

Rob’s transportation plan includes a $700 million investment in roads improvements, to be funded with private-sector cash generated through subway-related development along the Sheppard Line. This money will be allocated to eliminating the $250 million backlog of road repairs, $50 million to complete the synchronization of all signalized intersections with SCOOT technology, and up to $400 million for arterial road improvements to increase traffic flow. Sewer and water infrastructure maintenance/improvement must continue to be a priority for the city.

What funding mechanisms would be best to ensure that infrastructure is built and maintained?

Wasteful spending must be stopped so money can be invested in these core areas. Private sector funding by selling development rights along subway lines will help to build more subways and improve our roads.

Are there different governance models that would work more effectively to build and maintain infrastructure?

The single biggest improvement to governance will be the election of a mayor and councillors who respect Toronto’s taxpayers. For seven years, this has not been the case.

How would you ensure that Toronto works productively with Queen’s Park and Ottawa to ensure that Toronto gets its fair share of infrastructure funding?

The City of Toronto has a serious spending problem. The city is over $3 billion in debt and annually plans to spend hundreds of millions more than it takes in. Few city projects are completed on time or budget. The result of this fiscal mismanagement and failure of leadership is that city has zero credibility when it comes time to negotiate with other governments. By putting the city’s house in order, it will be easier to sit down with other governments and negotiate deals that benefit Toronto taxpayers.

Are there changes you would make to procurement/tendering processes to ensure that Torontonians get better value for money and that more infrastructure can be built with limited dollars?

Rob’s Taxpayer Protection Plan addresses this concern in detail. Rob will publish all city spending online so vendors can see opportunities that may otherwise be misses. All city purchasing will be open, transparent, and competitive. All major purchases will be tendered.

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