Friday, October 5, 2007

What about the roads and the power lines, dudes?

With a few days to go before the election, I've noticed the one issue that seemed to dominate the discussion was education. Of course that's important; but in the Canadian federation provinces are much more than the "glorified municipalities" that was once spoken of dismissively by John A. Macdonald. So tonight I wanted to talk about two issues that seem to have gotten little notice; and what I hope to see no matter who comes out on top this Wednesday: Transportation and power.

On roads, I think there has been way too little discussion, and that's a big problem. Our roads here in Southern Ontario are way too clogged with commutes taking longer and longer (no surprise there); while up North they are appalling substandards and with no easy backups. Just witness the collapse of the Langford Bridge on Highway 11 a few years back and the chaos that caused -- with no alternate route between Timmins and North Bay, people and in particular truckers had to take a huge detour via 69 or 17 and 144 via Sudbury. Sure, the population is sparse; but surely people up North have the right to at least four lane divided highways if not a fully access-controlled road. 69 is slowly being twinned and will eventually become the 400 all the way from Parry Sound to Sudbury; while the 11 is on track to being doubled as well. Both -- by 2017.

But that leaves the 17 and the rest of 11, which for most of their lengths are a very dangerous two lane roads -- and our portions of the Trans-Canada; which has been twinned pretty much across the Prairies and half of BC, as well through Québec and the Maritimes. Why should Ontario be any different? And why should the North be made to suffer at the expense of us Southerners? I'd like to see the projects fast-tracked; on a design-build basis rather than tendering bits and pieces at a time.

As for us in the South -- pretty simple: Fast track HOV lanes and public transit projects. And get it done fast. Commuting downtown is bad enough; imagine those who have to drive for a living.

On power ... the old Ontario Hydro model seems so much better in hindsight. Publicly owned, from production through tranmission and delivery. The problem started in the 1990s when power rates were frozen. They really shouldn't have been. Someone was subsizing the system and we all know what happened. Deregulation hasn't been the disaster as it was in California; but it wasn't pleasant either. And we're still paying rates well below market.

Certainly, lower income people need help but I'm going to say two very unpopular things here: We need the monopoly back and we need to start paying the true cost of electricity. Not one basis point more or less.

We also need to be a net exporter of power again. That's exporter, not importer. We shouldn't have to beg Manitoba, Québec or the neighbouring US states for their electricity unless it's absolutely necessary; and even then only to cover gaps of a couple of hours at most. Too, we need to take a look at the full basket of options available; and while I reckon clean coal and nuclear will be part of the final package they should be what comes at the end, not at the front.

I haven't heard too much from the main parties on this. Why?

More in the coming days and what I wished had been the issues but weren't.

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1 comment:

The Mound of Sound said...

The reason it's all been education, education, education is that John Tory chose to stick his neck out on it far enough for your beleaguered premier to conveniently chop it off. It lets Dalton skirt a lot of other issues and marginalizes the NDP in the process. Hard to imagine any pol who wants to remain in power not pouncing on that perfectly safe opportunity.

Even out here on the offshore left coast we get the odd whiff of fear from the Tory ranks, the sort of smell exuded by a careless camper stalked by a cougar. To his lasting regret, John Tory defined the election debate by his foolishness. Hard to say whether it was just the hubris that so often besets the pampered or sheer, rank stupidity but the electoral debate in Ontario has been set by the guy who stands most to lose. C'est la guerre!