SCOR EDC has been working with the Minister of Transportation and senior staff over the course of many years. We have been advocating strongly for a master transportation plan for not only SCOR, but all of southwestern Ontario that would include connectivity through various transportation systems such as our highways, roads, rail, ports, and airports. As we seek the bestmodes of transportation for business, shipped products and residents within rural Ontario it is important to take into account all modes of transportation. In order to alleviate traffic on highways and roads, and to create a system that is affordable, environmentally friendly and convenient a master transportation plan is key for growth of within southwestern Ontario and the 5 County partner of SCOR.
Most recently at the 2019 ROMA Conference, SCOR EDC board of directors requested the following from the Ministry of Transportation:
We asked the Ministry to continue working with SCOR EDC and others throughout Southern Ontario to develop a viable master transportation plan for the region. SCOR EDC has been working with Ministry staff to provide input on the needs of rural and small urban communities in the region.
It’s important that Southern Ontario is well connected through north/south highway routes, adequate bus rail and community transportation systems. Having a plan that is compatible with other systems will ensure that the region remains prosperous.
SCOR EDC also asked the Ministry to honour the funding contracts and investments made in 2018 to communities who received the Community Transportation Project funding. A community transportation network would make the region more accessible and thereby attract residents and businesses alike to the region. Community Transportation provides access to jobs, health care and educational opportunities.
From an economic perspective our workforce is facing some real challenges, some of those are related to demographics and other issues but one of the two main issues that economic developers and municipalities are facing when trying to recruit for “hard to fill positions” is lack of transportation.
In an effort to attract the youth cohort and those from out of area that have a higher unemployment rate the number one challenge in attraction and retention of those employees is lack of transportation. That includes both transportation that feeds into the larger urban centres but also community transportation.
As a region we have been coordinating our transportation investments and activities and are investing in transportation but we need investment and supports from your Ministry as well. We see this as a key part of a larger Southern Ontario Transportation Plan.
SCOR EDC also asked the Ministry to consider reviewing the Terms of Reference for the High Speed Rail (HSR) and further request a review of the alternative of High Performance Rail (HPR) be explored. SCOR EDC believes that further input needs to come fro the agricultural sector or rural Ontario.
SCOR EDC has conducted research on the impact of short line rail systems that service our communities, especially agriculture and manufacturing and the impact of the proposed HSR. The negative impacts on rural communities exceed the the positive impacts for urban communities. There is worry that high speed rail will increase property taxes with decreased service.
SCOR EDC also requested that we would be included in consultations surrounding the potential sites for multi-modal facilities that may be developed in the western part of the province. A multi-modal facility would alleviate traffic congestion into the GTA and spark investment in other parts of the province as well.
Lastly, SCOR EDC requested that the Ministry open up the Gas Tax program to communities that are also investing in rural community transportation. The annual gas tax funds come from two cents per litre paid at the pump, to the tune of roughly $357.5 million across the province. This money is meant to increase ridership and infrastructure of public transit services around the province. The funding formula is currently based on ridership and total population and cannot exceed 75 percent of local transit spending.
Communities in rural Ontario have been striving for ways to be innovative and collaborative in seeking to bolster or develop their community transportation. We are at a disadvantage as we often do not have the resources to have fully implemented transportation networks which would be eligible for the Gas Tax program.
Arguably residents in rural communities are more entitled to the Gas Tax Funds as they have likely paid more towards those from from travel to get to larger urban centres because of a lack of public transportation services.
A lack of public transportation is driving residents from small communities to larger urban centres to access to public services and those same residents are then creating further workforce issues for our smaller urban and rural businesses.