Transport Futures: Federal Election Transportation Debate

The Federal Election cycle is officially on! This week, candidates representing three political parties touted their party's transit vision at the Federal Transportation Debate at the University of Toronto, hosted by Transport Future.

Transport Futures: Federal Election Transportation Debate was moderated by Ben Spurr, transportation reporter for the Toronto Star.

Debaters included:

  • Adam Vaughan,  Liberal Party of Canada candidate for Spadina – Fort York
  • Diana Yoon, New Democratic Party of Canada candidate for Spadina – Fort York
  • Tim Grant, Green Party of Canada candidate for University-Rosedale

The Conservative Party denied the invitation to attend the debate, and the People's Party of Canada did not show up at the event.

The questions spanned transportation modes including air, rail, and marine; but public transit, especially in Canada's urban centers, was the key question of the debate. The candidates shared their pitches for how their party will support realistic budgets and evidence-based planning to achieve safe, seamless, equitable, and sustainable transit.

Adam Vaughan, who is running for re-election as a Liberal candidate, focused his remarks on the Liberal's record over the past four years to build the country's longest and strongest transit funding platform; including the PTIF fund and expansions of the fund to include maintenance costing, and active transportation infrastructure for cities. He touched on the inherent risks of private-public partnerships but also spoke about the risks of not building appropriate infrastructure that can be made possible by private investments. As a former city councillor of Toronto, Vaughan was able to comment at length on the disastrous proposal of the Ontario Provincial Conservatives to tear up existing relief line plans in exchange for the "magic marker" Ontario Line project.

Diana Yoon, a climate activist and NDP candidate, highlighted the NDP's platform's equity-first approach to building and operating transit infrastructure, and the necessity of closing current gaps that leave transit infrastructure crumbling under poor funding. As a climate activist and labour-friendly candidate, she spoke at length about the importance of ensuring good, unionized jobs, including made-in-Canada electric vehicles and jobs with safety infrastructure, such as the Foodora United Food Couriers campaign to unionize with CUPW. Yoon focused her remarks on the necessity of equity-first planning for low-income and marginalized people, as well as the need for publicly-owned transit to fill the gaps in inter-province jurisdictions (including a replacement service for the cancellation of Greyhound in Western Canada).

Tim Grant, multiple-time provincial candidate for the Green Party and first time federal candidate, rightfully focused the lens of debate on climate crisis and the immediate importance of reducing car-dependency and carbon-intensive mass transportation as a climate action. He touted the Green transit strategy's "hub and spoke" model of electrified trains and buses to increase mobility. Grant challenges the leadership of the country to build a national transportation strategy, and suggested that the FCM's ask for a greater proportion of the gas tax to be dedicated to transit is unsustainable as we make a transition to a carbon-less economy.

Overall, the debaters were pleasant and respectful. They agreed on the huge needs for transit investments, the urgency of the climate change debate, the importance of federal respect of local decision-making, the need for a pedestrian and cycling strategy, and the unpredictable impact that technological advancements will have on how transit works. The topics of contention included the use of private-public partnerships, as well as the merit of free transit, road tolls, and transit tax credits.

At this early stage in the election cycle, there is still some uncertainty regarding the parties' transit platforms, as they have not yet been released. ATU Canada will share the party's official transit plans as they are available!

More coverage:

  • ATU Local 113: Federal Election 2019: Where the Parties Stand on Public Transit
  • The Star: Climate Change Unites Candidates at Future of Transit Debate ahead of the Federal Election
  • City News (video): Federal Candidates Debate Transportation Issues