Friday, 4 April 2014
Transit supporters have a field day with Fielding
|City Councillor Scott Fielding|
Image Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Now, how's Fielding going to distinguish himself in what looks like it'll be a field of many suburban-based conservatives vying for the mayor's chair come fall?
By stridently opposing plans to move forward on rapid transit!
A brilliant idea in a city that's talked about and shelved rapid transit plans for 50 years, eh?
Fielding frames his opposition to moving forward on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as just being about priorities. He wants the potholes fixed and various infrastructure mega-projects done first before working on BRT. Funny thing is, when people stall on rapid transit they end up not getting around to it for a very long time.
Sam Katz, like a mayor Fielding would, inherited BRT plans from the previous mayor - then former Mayor Glen Murray. Murray would run federally for the Liberals, lose, move to Toronto and become an urban consultant before jumping into Ontario provincial politics as an MMP. Winnipeg progressives to this day lament Murray's failure to follow through with implementation, as Katz stalled on the plans and redirected funds dedicated to rapid transit for other uses.
Other levels of government were not happy, especially given many conditional on BRT funding agreements had been made. For years, Katz wrangled with the Province and the Feds until he finally recognized blindingly obvious reality and started work on the BRT line in the 2010s. By 2012 we had 3.6 km of rapid transit line through the uncompleted Southwest Transitway.
Right now there's a $600 million deal between the Province, Federal Government, and City to extend the Southwest Transitway.
Fielding is taking a page from the Katz playbook and wants to stall this plan.
He keeps talking about the $600 Million for the Southwest Transitway extension as if it $600 million in free money. But $375 Million comes from other levels of government, just as was the case with the various rapid transit deals Katz blew. In the end, Katz managed to keep some of the funds as it was a competitive political environment of minority governments back then, where every City mattered. We can't count on being so lucky next time.
If Scott Fielding or a City Council influenced by his mindset blows the Southwest Transitway extension deal, we as a City could be out of $375 Million in critical funds for the investment.
That's a risk we can't take.
Fortunately, transit supporters haven't taken to kindly to Scott Fielding's transit games.
Taking a page from the Rob Ford playbook, Fielding accused me of a "war on automobiles" in a subsequently deleted tweet.
Winnipeg, we just can't let someone with a Rob Ford mindset steer our city into the gutter. We need to realize that in the long run a rapid transit system provides real road relief by giving people the choice of not driving in our City.
As the roads are relieved of the strain of many cars through transit choices they'll face less wear and tear. Our road maintenance costs will plummet.
This is why, if you really care about our declining roads, you must fight for a rapid transit system. Scott Fielding is dead wrong and as mayor he could really harm our City.