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NRI Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar made made no guarantees
but local ocal politicians angling for seat on transit board

Toronto, April, 04, 2006
Brampton Guardian

Local politicians are eager for a seat on Ontario's transit commission, but Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar is not taking reservations yet.

Takhar was in Brampton Wednesday, with Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, local MPPs and other provincial representatives, for a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Brampton and Mississauga boards of trade as well as Caledon Chamber of Commerce. Duncan was keynote speaker at the event organized to discuss Ontario's latest budget.

The primary focus in Ontario's 2006 budget is $838 million to expand and modernize public transit in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Brampton was one of the grateful beneficiaries. The city is receiving $95 million to begin building its rapid transit project Acceleride.

The money is part of the government's new $1.2 billion Move Ontario initiative.

The budget also includes government plans to establish a Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA) responsible for promoting a seamless public transit system across GTA municipalities.

Mayor Susan Fennell said the new authority would play a pivotal role in public transportation throughout the GTA. "It will have the most to say about where transportation will occur," she said.

Brampton Centre MPP Linda Jeffrey agreed. "If we don't have a voice there we're invisible and we're too big to be invisible," Jeffrey said.

In an interview with The Guardian, Takhar said his ministry is in the process of developing legislation to create the authority and determine its members. "We want to make sure that the region of Peel is represented," he confirmed.

He further suggested representation might be regional rather than city specific. Representation by city might make the authority too large, he said.

Takhar also mentioned tenders on Phase Two of the Hwy. 410 extension from Bovaird Drive to Mayfield Road are expected to close April 19 and construction should begin in May. However, Regional Chair Emil Kolb could not confirm whether the extension to Mayfield Road would be open to motorists once completed.

Kolb explained the original construction agreement among the region, Brampton and Town of Caledon stated the expansion would not be open to traffic until Phase Three construction is complete to Hwy. 10 in Caledon.

The province is still in the initial stages of acquiring land needed to construct Phase Three of the extension.

Kolb said he expects Caledon would be cooperative in allowing the road to open from Bovaird to Mayfield without completion of the final phase. But he could not guarantee that cooperation.

He also noted the bridge construction on Mayfield Road must still be completed to allow traffic on and off Hwy. 410 once Phase Two is finished.

During his speech, Duncan patted himself and the Liberal government on the back for a 2006 budget containing no new taxes or tax increases and elimination of the deficit by 2008/2009.

He then departed the breakfast meeting, but left Takhar, local MPPs, municipal politicians and his parliamentary secretary to field questions from the floor.

He stopped briefly to answer some questions from reporters.

He offered no government commitments in responding to a media question about the lack of money in the budget to address mounting social services costs in Peel and inequity in funding levels. "We acknowledge there is more to do," he said, noting that social services costs have been downloaded by the federal government.

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