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politics

Expressway Environmental Assessment To Nowhere

The disingenuous fight over the future of the Gardiner.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/subjective_art/8134345510/"}Subjective Art{/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Let’s talk about transparency and openness in government, shall we?

Assuming for a moment the narrative of Team Ford, let’s float the notion that the previous administration at City Hall under Mayor David Miller was horribly, terribly anti-car, determined to roll back the clock to a time of corduroy roads and horses and buggies. To that point, it voted in July 2008 to authorize an Environmental Assessment to examine tearing down the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway to Jarvis Street.

This was such a declaration of war against the car that the Millerites sneakily included in the terms of reference of the assessment three options for study to keep the Gardiner pretty much as is. Do nothing (maintain the elevated expressway); improve (the existing expressway); replace (with a new expressway). Brilliant—in its backdoor strategy of trying to tear down the eastern portion of the Gardiner, the report actually looked at three different ways to keep it in place!

Not content to fight cars on just one front, these devious bastards tricked council into killing the Gardiner by neglect. Since the environmental assessment process would take three to four years to complete, David Miller and his antediluvian thugs donned the mask of fiscal probity and convinced a majority of council not to throw good money after bad. It only seemed sensible not to lavish money on a piece of infrastructure that you might end up tearing down in the near future. So why not, as council voted to, “defer the total rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway east from Jarvis Street, except for essential works required to provide safe operating conditions“?

Nice try. But everyone knows that such sound financial thinking was anathema to the profligate Miller gang. They wanted to starve the beast. That’s the only possible explanation why some $40 million of the budget money they approved went unspent on the Gardiner upkeep under their watch. Why wasn’t all that money put into upkeep if not to allow the Gardiner to crumble?

Actually, that’s a very good question. City staff haven’t explained why the money approved by council went unspent. Especially given that we are talking about public safety, we need clear answers. We need to find out, moreover, why City staff under both administrations seemingly failed to keep council properly informed about the real state of the expressway.

What we need to learn as well: why the other part of that council decision—undertaking that pesky environmental assessment—was never completed. For left unmentioned in the Team Ford narrative: sometime in the murky but more recent past—say somewhere between November 2010 and the 2011 budget deliberations—the already-authorized, already-underway environmental assessment gets put on a shelf to collect dust. Why? Who knows. By whom? That’s anybody’s guess.

“At this moment the [Gardiner EA] is what we call unfunded; while it exists on our books, there is no funding to complete it just yet,” David Kusturin, Waterfront Toronto’s COO told the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat back in May of this year. Placed “on the far back burner” according to the Public Works and Infrastructure chair, councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East).

Like that. No public consultation. No vote at council. Just a decision made out-of-sight during the budget process. Three million dollars of the $7.7 million already spent; the rest “reallocated to other Waterfront Toronto priority projects.”

And before you can say, “Hey, whatever happened to that Gardiner EA?” we find ourselves, during the 2013 budget season, with a capital plan costing more than half a billion dollars to restore the Gardiner Expressway starting with the eastern portion from the Don Roadway to Cherry Street. A section which was supposedly still under assessment. Apparently. Except that it wasn’t. Because the EA was on the far back burner. Everybody knew that. What’s the big deal? We’re just paving a road here.

And when this done deal gets called into question, there’s only one way to respond. Go on the offensive. Point fingers in the other direction. Proclaim the exact opposite of the truth. The Gardiner EA was just a plan to tear down a vital arterial roadway that would lead to massive congestion and force hardworking taxpayers out of their cars. The half a billion dollars brought forward for the Gardiner was just the price we have to pay in order to make up for the deliberate neglect wrought by the anti-car administration of David Miller. (Note to talking points generator: if we can include some reference to unelected judges that would be awesome.) Nobody mothballed the EA. It just mothballed itself.

For an administration that spares no opportunity to proclaim a sweeping mandate from the 2010 election—some of that based on the promise of ending all the backroom shenanigans it claimed took place at City Hall—Team Ford certainly seems comfortable operating behind a wall of opacity when it suits their needs.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    Anyone who truly thinks that there is a War on Car should take a look at how the War on Drugs and War on Poverty turned out, and feel a whole lot better…

    Also, it is quite possible that Denin Menzil-Wong is the worst person in the world.

  • Greenski

    Why is an environmental assessment needed regardless of repair or replace? Will they be searching for rare critters living beneath it?

    • Anonymous

      The EA was to look at all the options, not just repair. Replacing or removing requires an EA, and any EA should compare with options that don’t require an EA. (Like “do nothing”)

  • Lbowman

    What this shows is the broken municipal class EA system for roadways, the same broken system that required no EA to remove the jarvis bike lanes – will not be enforced by the Province for the Gardiner either.