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As a new home builder, I’m used to thinking 10, 15 and even 20 years ahead. It often takes that long for designs and approvals to come together. Planning for the future is important for our governments, as well. With land becoming scarce in many places in Ontario, the government established the Places To Grow Act, 2005, that demands intensification and aggressive density. Sounds good, but will we have the infrastructure in place to handle a larger population?
We have enormous long-term needs in this area, but we live in a world of short-term thinkers. No one is looking at the big picture where the total infrastructure is concerned. We already have problems with traffic flow. I question whether our governments have figured out what will be required in 50 years. Once we understand that and create a strategy to achieve it, we can determine what can be done today to start the ball rolling.
There is hope in the form of the Greater Toronto Transit Authority (GTTA). Former Burlington mayor Rob MacIsaac is chair of this organization that is attempting the first step of defining the transit needs of the entire GTA and beyond, from Oshawa to Hamilton. I applaud this effort to examine, define and take steps to create an integrated transportation system and eventually inspire a better way for all Ontarians.
However, all levels of government complain that the money’s not there to remedy the situation, and we have activists who wish to stop growth. If earlier generations engaged in this kind of negative thinking, Toronto would still be huddled around the lake and Front Street wouldn’t exist, in my humble opinion. What if the powers that were had refused to build highways 400, 401, 427 and 27? As it is, Highway 400 and the Allen Expressway don’t go all the way to Lakeshore. If they did, traffic flow patterns would function better.
And what would driving around Toronto be like if Highway 407 hadn’t been built? Gridlock would be 10 times worse. We’re at the point where the ability to take the subway from downtown Toronto to the airport is now a necessity. If there’s no government money to build roads and expand the TTC, then maybe the private sector is the answer.
For all its problems, Toronto is one of the best cities in the world to live in. Let’s look at and respect the challenges growth brings and go forward with a 50-year plan that says yes to infrastructure.
Hugh Heron is principal and partner in the Heron Group of Companies, president of Heathwood Homes and a member of the board of directors of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as well as a past president of the Toronto Home Builders’ Association and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.