Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Asking Liberal Transportation Minister Jim Bradley: Where is Niagara's GO Train?

Here’s a letter to the editor by Doris Olesky (St. Catharines Standard, Jun.21, 2000) “Leave your car at home and use public transit”:

“The story The menacing haze on the front page of The Standard, June 10, is another grim reminder for me and many other Niagara residents, of the ever-mounting, increasingly urgent problems of smog from our cars and other gas guzzlers.

The Harris Tories need to make our air quality a priority. Legislating the level of sulphur in gasoline and the emissions from power generation and industry and funding more public transit is a must.

As a senior citizen, my concern is not only for the maintenance of my health and of those around me, but the effect this poor air quality will continue to have on my grandchildren and their children.

There's no doubt about it, we are all spoiled when it is very convenient to jump in our cars, to attend to errands we could easily walk to.

St. Catharines MP and Liberal environment critic Jim Bradley has repeatedly asked the provincial government to fund a GO train between Niagara and Toronto to cut back on the number of cars travelling daily on the QEW.

Most experts agree on one thing --cleaning the air will come at a heavy financial price. The public has to get ready to pay part of that higher cost to help implement these changes.

But there's no doubt about it, every one of Niagara's residents has to begin to make a personal commitment to help make a change. It's not only the government's responsibility. Until each one of us is willing to make a few sacrifices, we will keep complaining about this environmental problem. Are you able and willing to walk to an errand or take public transit?

I've decided to leave my car at home and walk or take public transit. Maybe I'll see you at the bus stop!"
Isn't this letter precious?! Yes, even Jim Bradley’s own constituents were under the impression that somehow Jim Bradley supported a GO train to Niagara, and this is over seven years ago, in 2000! Note the skew in this letter was that 'the Harris Tories' were somehow to blame, and that Super Jim Bradley was somehow the hero.

The letter-writer tells us that Jim Bradley repeatedly asked” (ie, disingenuously postured) about Niagara GO train funding when he was safely in opposition, but we now see that Bradley never actually did anything about it when he had the chance! And he did it again (now as an incumbent) in the 2007 election campaign, during the all-candidate’s meeting at the CAW hall: he said the GO train is coming, but upon being re-elected and anointed Minister of Transportation, all Bradley could say is Niagara might – eventually - get a GO bus!!

Bradley supporters seemingly were under the impression Bradley’s Liberals would also do something about smog and air quality, but Bradley’s Liberals failed on that account as well. Ontario’s own environmentl commissioner harshly criticized Bradley’s government, giving the Grits a failing grade for enforcement funding; in 2006, the Sierra Club gave the Liberals an ‘F’ on climate change; in 2007, even Greenpeace called the Liberal's meagre climate change funding “laughable’.
In opposition, Bradley’s Liberals postured about deaths and asthmatic suffering from Nanticoke's emissions. Yet, while they were breaking their promise to close the plant, for four years they didn’t even bother to at least help the situation by installing scrubbers.

Columnist Doug Herod wrote in the St. Catharines Standard (Oct.2, 2000): Bradley doesn't think the highway should be expanded. He believes the province should be looking at transportation alternatives such as GO Transit…Bradley says he, too, is uncomfortable with the thought of the region becoming a commuter haven. But he maintains heavy Niagara traffic to Toronto is already a reality. Better to meet that need with increased rail service than adding lanes to the QEW, he says. As for any development pressure, Bradley says that can be handled through inviolable land-use policies set by the province.”
So what did Bradley and his Liberals do during their four years of majority government (2003-2007)? They did the exact opposite: they expanded the highway in Niagara, and did nothing but stall and make excuses about GO!

As for Bradley’s views in Herod’s article, about “development pressure” and “inviolable land-use policies set by the province” – little did we know that Bradley was foreshadowing his Liberal’s authoritarian “Greenbelt”policy. Unlike other cities, this Greenbelt completely surrounded St. Catharines – spurring intensification within the city, to the resentment of a seeming majority of Garden City nimby-folk. (What did they think was to be the fallout from Bradley’s ‘inviolable policies’?!)

Herod wrote : The thought of sprawling subdivisions popping up in west Niagara because Toronto commuters have GO Transit as an travelling option makes me shudder…GO works most efficiently when it serves a large suburban base where a significant portion of the population works outside its municipal boundaries, usually Toronto. Without provincial and/or federal help, it can't afford to stretch to areas outside the congested Toronto orbit, no matter what environmental advantages might accrue. And so we have no hope of getting an expanded commuter rail service until we start looking more like Richmond Hill or Markham. If that's the price to pay, I'll gladly pass.”
So, Doug - we’ll keep St. Catharines in stasis, in the happy days of Andy of Mayberry, a little Liberal Utopian island of status-quo, all on its own… no wonder Bradley Do-Little thrives in this town. Bradley’s two-faced, lacklustre performance reminds me of the lyrics of a Paul Simon song: “Nothin’ but the dead and the dying back in my little town…”

If we keep St. Catharines ‘small’, you see, through restrictive land use policies, we’ll never be able to qualify for, and therefore, support, a GO train! Problem solved! The halcyon days of our past will last, unchanged, for evermore!

Herod wrote (St. Catharines Standard, Mar.6, 2003): “Actually, I'm lukewarm to the idea of bringing GO here. To me, it would only encourage urban sprawl in Niagara to accommodate Toronto-bound commuters. Now, that's what I call unacceptable.”
Herod also asked: “Who’s more to blame for not having GO here, the Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives?”
Has Herod asked that question now in 2007, after four years of Liberal majority rule?! Did any of this "sprawl" which makes Herod shudder-so, occur since Bradley's 1977 election? Fuggetabout Bradley’s posturing and flip-flops on the beneficial tourism, environmental, and commuter aspects of GO transit: the goal is to pretend GO is coming, while suppressing development and growth. Bradley loved to fearmonger with rhetoric about how developers are ready to pave and bulldoze Ontario. And many believed his bluster.

Even Welland, located south of St. Catharines, has notions of GO rail. In “Fantastic idea; Railway owner makes pitch for Go Transit service” (Welland Tribune, Jul.20, 2006) Greg Furminger wrote:

“Local officials are looking to derail the notion that Go Transit service run through the Garden City, and that it instead be brought to the Rose City to help spur growth in Niagara's southern tier.
"What a coup it would be for Welland to have Go service instead of St. Catharines," Ward 1 Coun. David Alexander said at Tuesday night's city council meeting, following a pitch from Trillium Railway Co. owner Wayne Ettinger to operate service on leased, existing CP Rail lines between Hamilton and Niagara.
Alexander called it "a fantastic idea."
Mayor Damian Goulbourne said it's time that Welland "ruffle some feathers in St. Catharines," which is now awaiting Go Bus service, pending future expansion of rail operations. Goulbourne was also critical of leanings at Niagara Region that Go service be established in the north. He cited the upper-tier municipality's Grow South policy that encourages economic development in Niagara's southern tier as a case for a southern rail connection.
And, he said, the province's Places to Grow: Better Choices, Better Future document, which recently highlighted Welland as the only city in the Greater Golden Horseshoe as a gateway economic centre, also supports the city's case. Recently presented to Niagara officials inside Welland council chambers, by Public Infrastructure Renewal Minister David Caplan, Places to Grow encourages development of transit-friendly communities to attract investors and foster growth.
"We are not going to sit back and allow the Regional Municipality of Niagara to decide where this is going to go," Goulbourne said in council chambers, to applause from a public gallery packed with residents awaiting news on other council business.”
Joseph Viola wrote in “I support bringing GO to Niagara”, (St. Catharines Standard, Feb.15, 2003):

“I recently heard Progressive Conservative candidate Mark Brickell unveil his election campaign.

I was quite impressed by his conviction to have GO Transit extended to the Niagara region. This is an important issue not only to me, but also for many other career-oriented individuals raised in St. Catharines.

I left Toronto in July 2001 to move home, knowing full well I would take a significant decrease in annual income although I never understood why such a beautiful region could not offer more.
GO Transit will afford me the opportunity to access a higher- paying career in Toronto without having to move there. More importantly, it provides me that access in an environmentally friendly manner.

GO will also provide the impetus for more successful business and career-oriented individuals to move to the Niagara Region.

The "twin" opportunity that such a transit system provides is an increase in the number of highly paid citizens and a reciprocal increase in the growth of the local economy servicing and supplying these wealthier individuals.

I look forward to the day that our region offers its youth career opportunities that pay well. I believe that if we put the right people in place, we can develop these opportunities for future generations. After all, an efficient transit system is the heart of a strong economy.

I have met with MPP Jim Bradley on numerous occasions and cannot deny I enjoy his conversation, intelligence and integrity.

What cannot be denied, however, is the lack of progress (socially and economically) as well as prosperity Bradley has achieved. I am confident that Brickell is committed to making our region the leader it should be and he is surprisingly willing to make himself accountable for it. This is a contract I am willing to support.”
Susan Fast wrote in “Let's hope Eves will implement Bradley's GO train service idea”, (St. Catharines Standard, Feb 25, 2003):

“It's nice to see people jumping on the GO Transit bandwagon in recent weeks, after extensive private polling revealed a desire for this service in Niagara.

Much has been made by the writers of letters to the editor since the Progressive Conservative nomination meeting that this service has not been extended to our area, but surely if Niagara Falls MPP Bart Maves, Erie-Lincoln MPP Tim Hudak and Stoney Creek MPP Brad Clark (the latter two cabinet ministers) had been pushing for the service, it would have been extended by now.

When St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley called for GO Transit service to Niagara back in May of 2000, Maves -- using his frank and honest assessment of the possibility -- stated in a Standard article that "to think that (GO Transit) would be self-sustaining to bring it to Niagara is probably unlikely."

Let's hope that our premier, with an election on the horizon, will have a change of heart, as he did with the Beck III Hydro project in Niagara Falls, and follow yet another recommendation from St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley and finally announce the new service.”

Ah, yes…in 2003, while in opposition, Bradley’s own constituents were convinced that GO transit was Jim Bradley’s recommendation! Why, Bradley, bless him, “called for GO transit service to Niagara back in May 2000”!

But now, in November 2007, no-one wants to know what Jim Bradley was pretending to believe back then! Now, no one is writing letters to the editor asking Jim Bradley to “finally announce the new” Go service which he himself supposedly recommended in 2000!

Where is the St. Catharines Standard headline in 2007 which reads: "Let's hope Jim Bradley will implement Jim Bradley's GO train service idea." ?!?

For an example of Liberal duplicity regarding Niagara GO trains, here's what GreenFear-pusher Dalton McGuinty said in “Grits want GO for Niagara: Extending mass transit would improve air quality, Dalton McGuinty says” (St Catharines Standard, Jul.7, 2000):

“GO Transit is a cure for what ails Niagara's polluted air, said Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty, following a discussion with local environmental activists Thursday.
During the noon-hour meeting McGuinty, along with Liberal environment critic and St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, met with a dozen representatives from Niagara groups at Niagara Suites in Thorold.
After the meeting, the Liberal leader insisted the governing Tories expand the mass transit system into Niagara to help reduce pollution.
"The provincial government has some fundamental responsibilities here," he said. "We are one of the few places where the government has gotten out of public transit."
Niagara's air quality is among the poorest in the province. Though there has only been one smog alert in the region this summer, the smog levels are consistently high.
Experts say smog -- a combination of ground level ozone and fine particles in the air -- threatens both humans and crops.
McGuinty said Niagara has to find a way to reduce the number of cars on the road, and the provincial government should be there to help.
Echoing past comments by Bradley, McGuinty said the governing Tories should expand the GO Transit system into Niagara to reduce smog-producing emissions from cars.
GO Transit is a mass transit system that is funded and operated by the municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area along with the region of Hamilton-Wentworth.
McGuinty said GO Transit should be provincially funded and extended to Niagara.
"There is a real potential in this region (for GO Transit)," he said, adding the system could link the region's municipalities and help the tourist industry.
McGuinty also attacked Premier Mike Harris's environmental record, saying Ontario residents no longer feel safe.
"We are not talking about an abstract thing here, we are talking about the air you just breathed," he said, promising that if he is elected premier the Liberals will restore many of the cuts made to the Ministry of the Environment.
McGuinty and Bradley also discussed water and land quality with the local activists.
Curbing urban sprawl and protecting Niagara agricultural land were at the top of the agenda.
"I was quite pleased with the meeting," said Gracia Janes of the Preservation of Agricultural Land Society. "(McGuinty) didn't say every much. He just listened, which is fine because he is formulating his environmental policy."
The meeting was one of several stops McGuinty made during a day- long tour of Niagara.”
Now compare the above Jul.7, 2000 report with what McGuinty said in "GO's future rests in Bradley's hands: premier" (St. Catharines Standard, Nov.15, 2007):

"It's up to the province's transportation minister, St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, to assess the "broader priorities" of any possible GO Transit service expansion to Niagara, said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
McGuinty was fielding a question about GO's expansion status during a Wednesday press conference held at the Ontario Economic Summit.
"I've heard on several occasions about the need for us to look to opportunities in the Niagara region," said the premier at the three-day Niagara-on-the-Lake event, which ends today.
"We've made some specific commitments through our MoveOntario 2020 (transit infrastructure) plan, which takes a look at the GTA and Hamilton itself," he said. "Those will be our principle responsibilities and priorities at this point in time."
So in 2007, Liberal McGuinty is saying he's "heard on several occassions about the need to look to opportunities in the Niagara region". Is he for real?!

Who did Dalton 'hear' this from?!? Has Dalton conveniently forgotten his own words?!? It was McGuinty himself was saying bring GO to Niagara - SEVEN years ago!
McGuinty's the hypocrite prescribing GO transit as a (pre-Kyoto, I might add) "cure" for Niagara's air! He's the opposition leader who tagged along with Bradley to Niagara, belching their Liberal rhetoric about smog and transit and GO and water and land quality and ozone - by golly, McGuinty must have been listening intently, what with all that supposed policy-formulatin' and future promise-breakin' going on in his head! Didn't McGuinty and Bradley already make their assessment in 2000, or was what they were saying in 2000 PURE LIBERAL B.S.?

Graham Coveney wrote in “Bradley has done little for GO transit”, (St. Catharines Standard, Mar.4, 2003):

“In response to the letter of Feb. 25, Let's hope Eves will implement Bradley's GO train service idea. It perplexes me how someone could write a letter to this newspaper talking about what great ideas and strong action MPP Jim Bradley has taken in bringing GO Transit to St. Catharines.

Ideas are great, but an idea and $1.29 will get you a large coffee. Without follow through, delivery and sustained effort, they are useless.

Bradley has had a long time to bring better public transport to Niagara; that idea has had more than two decades to "brew" but ideas don't take flight on lip service alone.

And even on the rare occasion he has gotten it right, Bradley's brilliance has been temporary. When he had the brainstorm to lower taxes to stimulate the economy, back when Bob Rae was premier, he then voted against 208 consecutive tax cuts.

Spare us the cry that the PCs are stealing the brilliant "idea" of GO Transit for Niagara and creating an action plan to make it a reality. Lord knows we can't afford to wait for Bradley to do something.”
By 2007, we were still waiting! Gabriella Cinalli wrote in “Commuters from Niagara need GO Transit”, (St. Catharines Standard, Mar.20, 2003):

“I am a young woman who works in Burlington for SIR Corp. I have a 45-minute commute on a good day and nearly 90-minute commute when traffic or the weather is bad.

I would love to use the GO Transit to get to work and back and would vote for Mark Brickell to have it. I realize in the past I had voted for Jim Bradley, but it is time for change in the community to bring in new and exciting things like the GO Transit.

GO Transit would save me time and money, I also would feel safer and I know it is better for the environment. Just the idea of not driving, whether it was a train or a bus, appeals to me a great deal. My commutes are the low point of my day. I have been driving to the Hamilton and Burlington area since 1993 and it really takes a toll on the body.

Mark Brickell, please bring GO Transit to Niagara. It has been way too long.”
Brickell ran unsuccessfully against Bradley in 2003. By the end of 2007, Bradley has done nothing to address Cinalli’s concerns. At least some local residents were voicing in 2003, what a lot more voters said in the 2007 election campaign: “I realize I had voted for Jim Bradley in the past, but it is time for a change.” Wow: now that IS an epiphany for a Bradley voter!
Mark Halden wrote in “Jim Bradley did little to bring in GO Transit” (St. Catharines Standard, Mar.5, 2003):

When the house resumes at Queen's Park, undoubtedly MPP Jim Bradley will rise during Question Period and talk about the importance of better public transit.

He is the Liberal party's environmental critic, so he should support policy that protects the environment.

Jim will say something like "we would like to see an enhanced train service [in Niagara]" like he did in November 2002, or "I would like to see GO Transit," as he did in June 2001.

Or maybe even, "I think there's a need for some public transit, but I'm not unrealistic; I don't expect that GO Transit should have the same service from St. Catharines that it has from Oshawa," as he did in December 2000.

The Liberals are worried about attacks on Jim's character, but it's difficult not to poke at his resolve.

If Bradley is so dedicated to public transit, why has he never requested that a committee be struck, or even why hasn't he requested a study on GO Transit or passed a private member's bill to support either?

Public transportation is good public policy. It is good for the environment and it's good for Niagara.

Standing up once a year and going through the motions are not enough.Feeling it would be nice to have these things doesn't bring change.

St. Catharines needs a representative who can, and will, sit at the decision-making table, make a strong commitment and follow through on this commitment.

We need GO Transit and we need action now, not more lip service.

People of Niagara want more economic development here, and that is what GO Transit will bring.”
Katherine Kerley wrote in “Face it, St. Catharines is not a small town”, (St. Catharines Standard (July 3, 2006):

"I'm not exactly sure what it is about St. Catharines that leads a majority of its residents to believe they are part of small-town Canadiana.

It could be our rural heritage or our huge flower budget, but no matter what it is, I have three words for all of the city's small-towners: get over yourselves! Statistically and practically speaking, a small town we are not.

As an urban area, St. Catharines-Niagara ranks 12th nationally in population size. To put things further into perspective, our city is larger than any city in New Brunswick, larger than the populations of all the territories combined, larger than any city in Nova Scotia (excluding Halifax) and larger than the entire province of Prince Edward Island.

Just because we live in the urban mecca of our country (i.e. Ontario) doesn't mean we are the centre of the small-town universe by the simple fact that we aren't Toronto. Open your eyes, people. If you run out of fingers in counting the number of high schools, it's time to snap to reality and deal with the fact that yes, we are a city, and yes, we are a large one. City Coun. Bruce Williamson, quoted in a front page article on June 28, said "We're not a big city and I think it's incorrect we should share their values."

Sure! Why should we value things associated with big cities, such as diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism, a variety of public spaces, music venues and restaurants, and yes, economic growth? That's just plain silly talk!

I'm sure I'm not the only youth that's frustrated with the mindset of this city. No one really wants to stay in a city with such antiquated and conflicting views of itself. Do I believe that a tower in Port Dalhousie will begin to solve this problem? I think that it will probably aggravate an already heated debate; however, this tower is just the project that this city needs to resolve its identity crisis. Small town or large city? Let's hope someone can figure out what this city needs to be.”
Who is Bruce Williamson, this proponent of small-town St. Catharines and it’s alleged Father Knows Best values? As Doug Herod pointed out in the St. Catharines Standard (Oct.17, 2007):

“How about that Jim Bradley and his fellow provincial Liberals winning re-election last week?
Great news for a lot of people here, no more so than for some St. Catharines city councillors.

That's because three of them - Bruce Williamson, Bill Phillips and Andrew Gill - sit on the executive of the St. Catharines Liberal riding association.

Nothing untoward about that. Indeed, people in public office are often political animals who are naturally drawn to the affairs of other levels of government.

But, what the heck, it never hurts to have knowledge of such high-ranking political affiliations as we start a new term of provincial/municipal relations in St. Catharines.

You never know, it may explain the tenor of debate on certain issues at city council. Or not.”
By 'debate' , does he mean the status-quo pushin’, small-town peddlin’, tax raisin’, growth-retardin’, let’s-pretend-St. Catharines-can-defy-progress believin’ paternalism of Liberals? Bradley even had nothing to say about a proposed Port Dalhousie redevelopment project in St. Catharines. He left it up to his riding executives, aka the local Liberal municipal senate, such as Liberal senator Bruce Williamson, to be his proxies.

In a column called “Homeboy Bradley now calling transportation shots” (St. Catharines Standard, Nov.2, 2007), all Herod could manage to say after Bradley’s re election was: “Truth be told, Bradley probably won't be able to bring GO train service to Niagara, either”.

So that’s it from the local press?! Sheeeeesh, Doug.

Who really cares what our own homie Jim Bradley said… we’re just happy he got re-elected, so he can continue saying (but not actually doing!) those things in the future!

In “GO service in Niagara would take 'pressure' off highways” (St. Catharines Standard, Apr. 25, 2005) Trish Audette writes GO chairman Gordon Chong said, it's better to look at how well GO service is received by riders. Whenever a new stop or route is added, commuters immediately take advantage of it.

"Once you put the service in, the existing residents will try to use it and they will stick with it if it compares favourably to using a car," he said.

Meanwhile, others "will move to an area when there is transit service." The combination of lower housing prices outside Toronto and transportation options acts as a lure to young couples and families, Chong said.

It's that movement of residents and potential residents that positions GO as an engine of economic growth, said [John Barr, project co-ordinator with the Regional Municipality of Niagara's public works and transportation department] and regional transportation engineer Eric Flora.

The arrival of GO in Burlington and Oakville, Barr said, signalled an economic boom in those areas. "It seems to be very good for their economic well-being in terms of residential growth and economic growth."

St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, who regularly drives back and forth between his Niagara home and Toronto, said GO would be a welcome alternative to hitting a QEW with traffic regularly getting clogged at the Burlington Skyway.

"It's a convenience that most people would like to have...." he said. "I think people look for that way to (get to) Toronto without grinding their teeth." ”

Whatever you say, Jim. Unfortunately, many of us have to grind our teeth just listening to your ineffective, blustering rhetoric. St. Catharines doesn’t need to signal that it welcomes any economic booms, right, Jim? We must stop luring - shudder - young couples with families to St. Catharines, right, Jim? For 30 years Jim 'regularly drives back and forth' to Queen's Park, but won't actually deliver GO train service to Niagara!

So… Jim Bradley is now the Minister of Transportation, in a second-term majority Liberal government. He no longer can justify trotting out his tired, and predictable, crutch of blaming everything on Mike Harris.

It’s time (sigh, again) for champion hypocrite, 30+ year MPP, homie Jim 'Nothin' but the dead and the dying back in my little town' Bradley to put up or shut up.

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