Friday, July 22, 2005

Fontana tells London they have received enough trough dollars

Seems the federal gas tax might not be the 'windfall' London banked on afterall:

London's $11.5-million Hale-Trafalgar railway overpass is stalled indefinitely and may be jeopardized by a lack of funding, sources say.

The city still hasn't reached a funding deal on the controversial overpass -- seen as partial relief for traffic bottlenecks at rail crossings -- with either CN Rail or the federal and provincial governments.

City hall had expected the federal government to help pay for the overpass as a public works project. But now the region's senior MP, Labour Minister Joe Fontana, says the city should use money from its share of the federal gas tax for the project.

"They do have the money," the London North MP insisted yesterday. "How the city decides to spend the gas tax is their decision in terms of priority-setting. That is the new infrastructure program."
I think this is hilarious actually, in the tragic sense of the word of course. I never thought I would hear sensible words come from Fontana's trap and it's an added bonus that London is on the 'losing' end. On the other hand, we must temper such praise with the knowledge that Fontana is a politician, and a member of the Party at that and hence has no problem spending other people's money. Spending cash on the implementation of Kyoto promises a greater reward than an unnecessary overpass in London.
"This will cause us all to have some pause," Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell said yesterday.

"If we have to spend an extra $4 million to $6 million to complete this project, then it will crowd out other capital spending priorities. It will be a political decision."

The funding glitch comes as the $4-million, first phase of the project is nearly complete, including land acquisition, utility relocation and design.

No shovel has been put in the ground yet, however.

The overpass was narrowly approved by council in a 9-7 vote last year. Several council members opposed the project, partly because the funding wasn't secured.
If these people weren't paid with public dollars, they would be living on street corners begging productive and responsible people for change instead of stealing it at the point of a gun. A sensible person doesn't start a business or begin on an expansion before the loan is guaranteed. But it's London, so that's they way they operate here.
Besides funding concerns, some council members argue other crossings, such as the CPR crossing on Adelaide Street North, are higher priorities.

So far, the province has chipped in $2 million, CN $1.4 million and the city $1.25 million, much of it already spent on the project's first phase.

Sources say the city has only managed to get a commitment of $2 million from CN Rail, no more from the province and nothing from the federal government.

London expects to get almost $55 million during the next five years from its share of the federal gas tax being given to municipalities. Ottawa is paying out 1.5 cents a litre from the tax, rising to five cents by 2009-10.

The money is to be used to improve roads, bridges and other public works as part of the Liberal government's so-called "new deal" for cities.

But council was expecting the federal funding from other sources.
Let us not forget that greed is one of the seven deadly sins.
Ward 4 Coun. Roger Caranci, who led the push to build the overpass, said he's "very confident" it will be built. "It's not in jeopardy. It's going to move forward," said Caranci, who suggested the gas tax money is a possible funding source.

[..] "Any person in their right mind would say there's a problem at the intersection and that we need to fix it."

[..] Steblin said any large capital project takes time.

"You have to eat an elephant one bite at a time and this is a very big project," he said. "But we believe it's a good long-term investment."
Caranci rules over Ward 4, so he's not the most unbiased judge of the right mindedness of others. Even new residents of this city governed by fools will tell you that an overpass on the more highly travelled Adelaide North would be a more worthwhile investment. How many more free dinners will council gobble up over this discussion before they are indeed the size of elephants?

As usual, taxpayers are fleeced either way. We are getting that overpass or likely the money is lost forever if they axe the project. An excerpt from last year, courtesy of the London Plea Press:
Council has already voted to proceed with the $11.5-million project aimed at reducing congestion and improving safety at the CN crossing.

But Gosnell wanted assurances that if the federal government and CN Rail don't ante up the funds for the second phase of the project -- estimated at $8 million -- the city can reserve the right to transfer provincial funds to other road project priorities.

Hume and city engineer Peter Steblin said the province is getting fed up with London's frequent changes in project priorities funded through the former SuperBuild program.

The concern over Hale- Trafalgar is that although the first phase has been approved with $2 million from the province and $2.5 million each from the city and CN, the federal government and CN haven't committed to the second phase.

The first phase involves design, utility upgrades and voluntary property acquisition. The second phase would be the overpass construction.

Gosnell fears if the second phase can't proceed or is delayed for several years, the city could lose the provincial share he'd rather see diverted to other road works.
Canadian taxpayers should be outraged at the irresponsible behaviour of London's governing elites - it is not just Londoners who are paying for such mismanagement and waste. Unfortunately, such begging and bumbling is not confined to London but occurs in most municipalities.


Pietr said...

What's the deal with Canadian railway travel?
You can't even get onto the platform at London until someone guides you to a particular car;at Toronto Union you can actually gain admission,but only after the train has arrived.
In England nobody gives a damn, but pretending that this kind of mollycoddling is added value does seem to be yet another charming example of Canadiana.

Mike said...

Londoners are solid Party supporters in the aggregate, so obviously they don't require any more pork for the time being. The Party's "Public Works" front organization can use that money more effectively to help shore up Party support in less predictable ridings.

David MacLean said...

I think the real problem with the bridge is the nature of the "new deal" which is actually a raw deal for taxpayers.

The new deal money is intended for "sustainable" Kyoto-friendly projects. Perhaps your bridge falls into that category, but in Regina, our mayor is spending the gas money on fuel-efficent buses, and not fixing crumbling infrastructure -- Ottawa dictates as such.

The Mayor of Winnipeg wants to fill potholes with the gas money, but the feds won't let him.

The new deal is garbage.

gm said...

Maybe, we should have less faith in the benevolent big brother who sloshes tax money like it flows in a stream and can be commanded by dams.