On May 25th elected officials at both levels of government joined us for the Brampton Board of Trade’s first Joint Federal-Provincial Issues Forum. A new format brought together local representatives from the two senior levels of government. The Forum’s theme focused on alignment. Federal Brampton MPs Ruby Sahota, Sonia Sidhu and Shafqat Ali represented the federal government. Graham McGregor and Ministers Charmaine Williams and Prabmeet Sarkaria represented the provincial government.
Although from different political parties, agreement on infrastructure priorities and the critical need to invest in growth-enabling infrastructure were main topics of discussion. One item of discussion was Brampton City Council’s decision on May 10th to delay a decision, for six months, on which LRT extension option to bring forward for Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) environmental assessment.
To encourage decision-making for the LRT extension project, The Brampton Board of Trade recently wrote letters to Infrastructure Ministers Surma (Ontario) and LeBlanc (Canada), asking for funding commitments for the LRT extension project, from their respective governments. An advanced funding commitment would allow Brampton City Council to send a fully-funded project through the TPAP environmental assessment, resulting in construction without further delay.
In late February, additional design details for both the surface and partially tunneled options were released, showing that project costs had increased to nearly $1 billion for the surface and close to $3 billion for the partially-tunneled option. Unfortunately, no updated Business-Cost Ratio analysis was included in the report.
Elected officials in attendance from both levels of government confirmed that while they have a long history of funding shovel-ready projects and are keen to support the LRT Extension, a firm funding commitment is premature given the City’s incomplete business case. The City of Brampton has expressed a preference for a partially-tunneled option but hasn’t completed a TPAP (environmental assessment). Why the delay? As was mentioned at the forum, a ‘value for money’ assessment does not favour the partially-tunneled option. City Council knows this but chooses to hold out hope, no matter how unlikely. Both Brampton’s business community and senior governments know that a higher-value option exists – the surface route – and encourages the City complete the TPAP on the option with the strongest business case for funding.
“How many more months and years will residents tolerate delay from this Council?” asks Todd Letts, CEO of the Brampton Board of Trade. “$3billion, the current price tag for the partially-tunneled option, could instead fund a surface LRT, the Queen BRT, and the Riverwalk flood mitigation project, combined, with millions left over. That’s what the senior levels of government mean when they mention value for money. And that’s why the Brampton Board of Trade will hold City Council to account and encourage them to move forward with the option that stands the greatest chance of funding success.”
Other collaborative discussion revolved around how barriers to constructing the GTA West Corridor (Highway 413) can be lifted, and how the province and federal government can work together to support enhancements to our post-secondary education system in Brampton. Good discussion was had on how investment in education meets critical skills gaps, and brings innovative approaches that address community needs, as is being done through the recent commitment to the Toronto Metropolitan University School of Medicine.