Group forms, rallies for transit funding

Community groups and transit activists gathered last night to protest provincial budget cuts to Toronto Mayor David Miller’s much-vaunted Transit City plans.

A rally organized by the Public Transit Coalition (PTC) filled the main council chamber at Toronto City Hall.

Speakers urged the provincial government to reverse its decision to slash $4-billion from the recent Ontario budget, unveiled in March by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. Premier Dalton McGuinty, to much fan-fare, promised the money in 2007.

According to PTC organizer Jamie Kirkpatrick, the coalition gives people a means to show their disapproval with the cuts.

“The fact (is) that Transit City is supported by everybody from all parts of the city and now it’s delayed.” Kirkpatrick said, “A lot of people are frustrated and a lot of them came out here to express that…”

For Barbara Stone of the Weston-Mount Dennis community, Transit City offered many different opportunities to revitalize her economically-depressed neighbourhood.

“The Eglinton Crosstown LRT will economically and efficiently connect us to places to work and to play,” Stone said. “It gives us access to every opportunity in Toronto for a better quality of life so cancelling Transit City may not only affect our access to it but also jobs that the province promised.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Ashwin Balamohan of Scarborough, who felt Transit City also represented an opportunity to bring different neighbourhoods in Toronto closer together.

“Neighbourhoods that are along the subway line have easy access to all sorts of educational, cultural, athletic and economic opportunities in the downtown core,” he said.

“People that are outside of that don’t have that access and they don’t have that ability to communicate with one another to work together.”

The PTC will be asking city councillors and provincial politicians to sign a pledge that the TTC be “public, properly funded and that the light rail plan be completed by 2020.”

Mayor Miller spoke briefly in support of the rally. He urged the crowd to remind Premier McGuinty of his promise to fund Transit City.

We know that the premier will listen to us and save Transit City,” Miller said. “We know that because on June 15, 2007 when he announced his funding and support for this program, he said we need to build it now.”