Ontario’s new transportation minister focused on construction, not more plans
July 10, 2014
Don’t even ask Ontario’s new transportation minister to discuss Toronto’s politically charged transit plans for Scarborough.
Steven Del Duca, the 41-year-old Liberal cabinet newcomer, isn’t interested in talking transit plans. Like Toronto region voters, he’s more concerned with implementing the projects already on the books.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government needs to demonstrate progress on transportation investments, including the promise of regional express rail that would electrify GO trains and deliver 15-minute service.
That’s the way to prove the government is abiding by the accountability and transparency it promised in the June election, said Del Duca.
“We need to move forward with the actual delivering” as opposed to continued analysis and discussion, the Vaughan MPP said in his first sit-down interview with the Torstar News Service since he was appointed.
As to whether the government would switch its allegiance from a Scarborough subway to an LRT if the city backtracked on its current plan, Del Duca would only say, “We have a plan and that plan includes building a subway in Scarborough and we’ve just received a strong mandate from the people of Ontario, from the people of Toronto, to deliver on the plan.”
When it comes to transit funding tools, including the high-occupancy toll lanes the Liberals have been promising to pilot since 2013, Del Duca is vague. He said he won’t discuss in isolation any aspect of the government’s funding plan.
The government has committed $15 billion to Toronto region transportation in the coming decade, along with another $14 billion in the rest of the province. But the money is mostly a reallocation of gas tax and HST already being collected.
Wynne, who early in her party leadership insisted Ontarians were ready to talk about new taxes and tolls to pay for transit improvements, has not indicated she wants to return to that discussion since her party’s majority win.
Del Duca is the sixth transportation minister in seven years. He said he’s honoured to serve in the big-budget, high-profile portfolio once occupied by the premier herself.
He is a marked departure from his most recent predecessor, the transplanted former mayor of Winnipeg Glen Murray, a cycling enthusiast and downtown condo dweller who has now moved to the environment ministry.
A suburbanite who drives his Toyota Venza down Highway 400 from Highway 7 every day, Del Duca has his own take on the impact the region’s booming population has on gridlock.
It took Del Duca about 55 minutes to drive to Queen’s Park when he was working as an aid to former Liberal star Greg Sorbara in 2003. Now, the commute to his digs in the Ferguson Block on Wellesley St. takes an additional 15 or 20 minutes each way.
Del Duca and his wife, Utilia Amaral, who also drives to her job in business development for the renewable energy sector, have discussed whether the subway might be a viable choice once the TTC opens the extension into York Region in 2016. Their home is close enough to access the new York Region bus rapid transit system being built along Highway 7.
Options, he said, are what excite voters in York and other parts of the Toronto area.
“They like the (Liberal) plan. They like their GO service. They need more of it. They need to feel they are getting that customer service treatment that they believe they deserve and need,” Del Duca said.
“My daughters are 6 and 3,” he said, gesturing to their portrait, which hangs in his office. “I want to make sure when they’re giving thought to where they want to settle, go to school, where they want to work and live, raise their families, that they have options.”