How to Sell the Public on HOT Lanes

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Image source: www.thestar.com

BY TAMMY FLORES

The private sector has been lobbying our leaders to be their champions for HOT Lanes. The private sector wants politicians and bureaucrats to sell the public on this scheme by using their brand and main stream media to “get the message out”.

September 2015, Transport Futures held a forum on HOT Lanes. HOT Lanes were lumped in with other travel options like Uber, walking, cycling, public transit etc.… HOT Lanes were promoted as merely another option to travel.

John Howe, from Cole Engineering, recommended that political champions are needed to ensure that the new HOT Lanes are a success. The most shocking thing was that he directed our politicians, our leaders, to sell “we the people” on HOT Lanes. I am disturbed by this. Not only is the private sector telling our leaders what is best for “we the people”, they are telling our leaders how to sell us on a scheme we don’t want. Mr. Howe went on to say that HOT Lanes should be promoted in the context of larger issues related to electric/automated vehicles, fiscal disruption, changing personal mobility choices and democratization of road space.

“Democratizing” road space? I can see people refer to this scheme as gouging commuters, but democratizing road space? What a farce!

To democratize something means to make something democratic. If something is democratic it means it is of or for the people. How on earth is this scheme of or for the people? There isn’t anyone I know that believes 407 ETR is of or for the people. They don’t think HOT Lanes are either. The consensus is that it’s a cash grab for the private sector. People feel our leaders are being bought off and that is why they are promoting this scheme.

This scheme penalizes commuters that have to use their vehicles to get to work. There is absolutely nothing democratic about this scheme at all. It’s not even capitalism because a true free enterprise wouldn’t need our politicians to sell their product.

The more I see this traffic management option pushed as the preferred method to fund and manage new road infrastructure projects, the more I question what really is the Province’s policy goals to support such a scheme?

HOT Lanes use the same traffic management scheme as 407 ETR. Private interest controls our road space.

If we continue down this path, gone are the days of building and designing road infrastructure out of need. Now our road space will be looked at in terms of what will make the most money. That is a natural consequence of having the private sector control our road space.

Terri Hall, from TURF (Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom a group of volunteers in Texas advocating against toll roads) most recently likened privatizing our water to privatizing roadways. This reminded me of Jodie Parmar’s efforts in 2012. He was the former Vice President, Corporate Development and Privatization Secretariat/Ontario that successfully led the $3.107 billion privatization of Highway 407. He wrote an article for the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper, September 26th, 2012 about being ignored when he brought proposals to senior public officials that could have saved the lives of seven Walkerton, Ontario residents.

As reported by The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson on December 20, 2000, “Had the Mike Harris government adopted a confidential report almost four years ago, there would be no Walkerton inquiry because seven people would not have died from contaminated water. To add irony to tragedy, the Ontario Tories are now actively considering a plan to solve the Walkerton mess that is virtually identical to the plan they rejected…In the spring of 1997, senior [prospective] advisers to the Ontario government presented a report to a committee of deputy ministers and political advisers that offered a troubling diagnosis of the state of Ontario’s waterworks. A copy of the report has been obtained by The Globe and Mail…”

Although no lives are at stake in the case of Highway 407, Jodie Parmar has been ignored again. He came forward on his own with potential solutions to 407 ETR issues and was blocked from securing a meeting with former Premier, Dalton McGuinty and the current Premier, Kathleen Wynne. Former Premier, Dalton McGuinty was quoted promising a meeting. It’s been five years since Mr. Parmar came forward with and no meeting ever happened.

Jodie Parmar’s advice to this administration regarding a way forward on 407 ETR matters is aided by the benefit of being, as described by Justice Drew Hudson in his July 10, 2004 Arbitration Decision, the “very senior employee of the Province who led and managed the process for privatization, the governing agreements and the legislation” and as described by Robert Benzie of the Toronto Star, the “architect of the $3.1 billion privatization of Hwy. 407”. My question is why does this administration refuse to meet with Mr. Parmar? What are they afraid of? They know he has the answers they don’t want?

A question asked at the most recent Provincial PC convention was, what can be done with 407 ETR? The answer was they didn’t know. Really?! You don’t know who you can turn to for the answer? And politicians wonder why people are disengaged.

Are you ready to have HOT Lanes shoved down your throat? It’s coming and unless you speak up, it will be too late.

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