Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, meeting number 26.
The orders of the day are, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), a study of Nav Canada's airport traffic services.
Joining us today from Nav Canada are Mr. John Crichton, president and chief executive officer; Rudy Kellar, vice-president of operations; and Larry Lachance, assistant vice-president for operational support, operations.
Welcome. I presume you have an opening statement, and then we'll move to committee questions.
: Bon après-midi, monsieur le président, mesdames et messieurs les députés.
Mr. Chairman, members of Parliament, good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me back to speak to the committee.
Accompanying me again this time is Rudy Kellar, Nav Canada's vice-president of operations, and Larry Lachance, the assistant vice-president, operational support.
In March, when I last appeared before the committee, we discussed the airport traffic services review that Nav Canada had initiated to examine service requirements at a number of airports. We are now undertaking extensive consultation with customers, employees, and community and other stakeholders on those proposed changes. These consultations will include the federal members of Parliament in whose ridings the airports are located. However, I understand from the clerk that the committee wishes to discuss Mirabel airport in particular today.
As you know, Mirabel airport has undergone a significant evolution in the past decade. Airport traffic has fallen by more than 40% since 2000, and passenger service ceased altogether in 2004. The airport operator has closed one of the two runways and is in discussions with a private consortium for the redevelopment of the terminal building into a theme park. Today the airport is primarily used by cargo operators, the aerospace manufacturing industry, and general aviation, including flight training.
As the committee is aware from our previous discussions, we review our levels of service regularly. It is good business practice and an integral part of our mandate that requires us to apply our level of service policy in a consistent manner.
Given the significant change in airport operations at Mirabel, we initiated an aeronautical study in July 2006 to examine our levels of service at that airport. Consultation and analysis were undertaken, and a completed aeronautical study was submitted to Transport Canada in May 2007.
The study recommended that the 24-hour airport control tower be replaced with a 24-hour flight service station. Transport Canada reviewed the study and indicated its concurrence in November 2007. Approximately one year later, on November 20, 2008, the service change was implemented.
Our services at Mirabel are in accordance with our published level of service policy, which we discussed in March. Among other things, the policy states that airport control towers are generally required when the sustained activity at an airport is above 60,000 movements annually. Flight service stations are generally required when an airport has more than 20,000 movements annually, of which about 7,500 are scheduled air carrier movements.
I have appended at the end of my printed remarks several graphs showing annual movements at the Mirabel airport in each year since 2000, hourly average movements, and 2008 movements plotted against our level of service assessment guidelines. At approximately 26,000 annual movements, traffic demand at Mirabel is appropriately served by a flight service station.
Flight service specialists are highly trained aviation professionals who provide safe and efficient operations at 58 airports in Canada, including some with complex traffic mixes and much greater traffic volumes.
You will have heard that some companies have expressed concern about the absence of a control tower at the airport. We have met with the companies in question twice in the past few weeks and will be meeting with them again later this week to discuss their issues and ways to mitigate them. One possible solution is for the companies requesting the control service to agree to pay for it. We estimate the cost at about $500,000 per year.
I can assure the committee that I fully recognize the importance of the aerospace manufacturing activity that occurs at Mirabel airport, and that our service assessment considered the uniqueness of Mirabel operations, where significant test flights originate and terminate.
Our flight service specialists provide excellent service to the aviation community. Their duties are comprehensive, and their track record in safety and service is exemplary. Rest assured that we are prepared to listen to and work closely with the customers and stakeholders involved to address the concerns that have recently been expressed.
With that, Mr. Chairman, we'd be happy to take the committee's questions.
We are reviewing any and all specific concerns. I think you're referring to Bombardier, which is the main manufacturer at the site, and Bell Helicopter.
In fact, before we changed to a flight service station, at the request of Bell Helicopter we did change some airspace to make it more suitable for them. In the case of Bombardier, we opened up another whole block of airspace northeast of Montreal for test flights, in addition to the one we already had for them northwest of Montreal. We are continuing that dialogue.
For the information of the committee, at this point we have found no difference from a safety point of view between the operators receiving a control service and their receiving an advisory service from the same tower by the flight service specialist.
I would add that it's important to remember that the main purpose of a control service is to prevent aircraft from hitting each other. It's not a service that in any way looks after the physical airport itself. It is much more related to keeping airplanes apart, keeping them from hitting each other, and keeping them from hitting vehicles on the ground on the runway. The flight service system works extremely well and has, as I say, an exemplary record for doing that.
Mr. Crichton, you put a figure of $500,000 on this problem. There is no longer any service at Mirabel because you wanted to save $500,000. However, I am concerned with the development of the aerospace industry. Everyone is talking about the situation in Montreal. Various figures are quoted, but they say that Montreal is second or third in the world, after Toulouse and Seattle. These two cities have airports with control towers 24 hours a day. And Mirabel has no control tower, to save $500,000!
You said that you had two meetings. Thus, let me share with you some comments that were made after those two meetings. The local newspaper is following this story, and states that a representative of Bell Helicopter declared, following the meetings, that some people did not understand the importance of the safety challenge.
Moreover, I spoke with representatives of the industry. These people do not want me to give their names; they seem to be afraid of you. Nonetheless, they say that it was a non-starter and that the meetings did not yield anything at all because, very simply, you did not want to spend $500,000. That is the problem.
We have safety problems. People from the aerospace industry tell us that they are conducting trials. There are some CF-18s. Pratt and Whitney is testing its motors, that is where they have their tests stand. There are also Bombardier and Bell Helicopter. All those people sign a letter, and all you have to say is that it is not important. You certainly know that two potentially unfortunate events occurred. They were close to being accidents. Now you tell us that it is not up to you to control these things, but those people know how things work. If they tell us that a control tower could have helped to avoid such incidents, I think that we should, at the very least, believe them, Mr. Crichton.
You said that you would hold a meeting this week. I wonder what for. Will you be telling them the same thing? Will you tell them that you did a study and there is absolutely nothing to be done?
I need to answer a couple of things that you've raised there.
To your last point, we will be meeting with them in an ongoing effort to understand what their specific requirements are, how they may create a safety risk and, if that is a legitimate safety risk, what we can do about it.
Having said that, and because the issue of Seattle Boeing Field and Toulouse having control towers was raised, I should tell you that you'll see from the information before you that Seattle Boeing Field has 300,000 movements a year and Toulouse has 94,000 movements a year. Under those circumstances, they would certainly have control towers in Canada if they had movements like that as well.
The issue of the $500,000 goes back to the basic equity of how we work and the requirement for us to apply our level of service policy. It's a legal requirement to apply it in a consistent fashion. Right now the cost of putting a tower back in Mirabel would in fact end up being borne and paid for by people who do not serve Mirabel. That is the basic fact. In Canada we have a national policy of assessing terminal charges, and that's for good reason: if we didn't, we would end up with the major centres--the Montreals, the Torontos, the Vancouvers--having very low costs assessed to the operators of the airplanes, while the people in the smaller centres--the Kelownas, the Fort McMurrays, the Val d'Ors--would be paying amounts that could be 10 or 20 times as much. For that reason, we have a national policy of assessing the terminal charges, which means we are making everybody pay for every unnecessary dollar that we spend in an airport.
It's also why I come back to one possible solution in this issue. Since it is a very specific group of companies that is asking for the return of the control service, there's a simple way to do it. If they will pay for it--and I don't think it's a lot of money for companies of that size--then we can avoid all that problem. We'd be more than happy to put it back, but we do have a legal obligation not to discriminate in terms of the application of our level of service policies, and it's for good reasons.
Mr. Laframboise, Nav Canada's charges are in the lowest 10% among any countries in the world. They are considerably lower than the charges people are paying at Toulouse and considerably lower than the charges that people are paying through various taxes in the U.S.—even if our charges were being paid.
Right now, the fact of the matter is that test flights are exempt from our charges. Last year at Mirabel, Bombardier and Bell Helicopter benefited to the tune of well over $200,000 in flights that were exempt from charges and for which we received nothing, and for which the rest of the aviation industry had to pay, even though they don't go anywhere near Mirabel.
So it's not quite that simple. There is a real issue here, I think, if we talk about the cost of being fair to everyone, including other people who are flying in Quebec.
In its consultative form, what we are doing with those customers now is to try to understand what their safety issues are. At this point, we simply have not been able to agree that there is a safety issue. We're going to have another meeting; maybe there will be other information brought forward.
At the end of the day, it is a decision that the safety regulator makes as well. It's not just Nav Canada saying that there is not a safety issue at this point. Neither has the regulator found a safety issue. We understand the industry's concern, but we're trying to find a way to do this that is fair to everybody, including the people who have to pay and yet never go anywhere near Mirabel. That's an issue as well.
We charge terminal fees at airports where we have staffed facilities, either an air control tower or a flight service station. However, the charging formula is national. It's based on aircraft weight; it isn't based on the airport's specific costs. We have a flat national fee that applies, so that it doesn't matter.
If you take an airport such as Toronto, which has 450,000 movements a year, I think the terminal charge today there for a B-737 is roughly $1,500. That $1,500 is what that jet will pay no matter where it lands in Canada. Whether it's in Toronto, Montreal, Thunder Bay, Yellowknife, Kelowna, Fort McMurray—you name it—that's what it will pay. If we changed to site-specific charging—and some countries do this—we would end up with that airplane probably paying $200 in Toronto and paying $7,000 or $8,000 or $9,000 to land in Yellowknife or Fort McMurray.
Ours are based on a national formula. That's a practice that has long been established. It's to try to avoid discriminatory treatment throughout the country. I think it's one that has worked well.
The alternative model is site-specific charging. The problem with it is that it's very volume sensitive. For a given amount of fixed cost that you would have at an airport, the less traffic you have to spread it over, the higher the unit cost becomes. It becomes very dramatic if we go away from the current system, and we don't propose to go away from it, because it seems to work well, and all of our customers seem to find that it's fine.
We are concerned in this particular case that to the extent we would incur more cost by putting a tower back in, it would not be borne by the people who are asking for it; it's going to be borne by the rest of the people in the country who don't even fly to Mirabel.
In our view, it is a good candidate to look at and tell them that if they really want that service, even though it doesn't fall within any of our level of service guidelines and neither Transport nor we feel that it's a safety issue, we can provide it, but they will have to offset the cost.
Yes. Air traffic control provides positive control. The controller's main job is to keep aircraft separated so that they do not run into each other, in essence, and on the manoeuvring surface of the airport to make sure they're not going to run into a snowplow or some other vehicle out servicing the airport.
In order to do that, the pilots have to follow the air traffic controller's instructions. There's no discretion, unless there's an emergency. The controller tells the pilot to hold or denies a clearance to take off or a clearance to land. They'll only do that because they don't feel it's safe, because there is a potential obstruction.
In the flight advisory world, what happens is that the flight service specialist provides the pilot with all the information. He will tell a pilot what's going on, and then it's up to the pilot to decide the right thing to do.
Pilots are trained to operate in both and they're quite comfortable operating in both. The difference between the two is traffic volume. Obviously, in a given amount of air space, the more aircraft you add to it simultaneously, the more complex it becomes and the greater the possibility of something going wrong. That's why, everywhere in the world, we determine which level of service is correct based on the traffic volumes.
Interestingly, we use 60,000 movements a year as a guideline in Canada. In the U.S., it's 100,000 movements a year, and in other countries it's different numbers.
But that's essentially it. I guess it's the difference, if you want to use the analogy of driving, between coming to an intersection that has traffic lights and one that just has a stop sign. With the traffic lights, there is no discretion: if the light is red, you do not go through the intersection; you wait until it's green. That's like the controller telling you that it's okay, you can go now. With the stop sign, you look both ways and you determine when it's safe to go. That's the simplest analogy. But they all have the same information.
I believe Mr. Laframboise mentioned two incidents earlier. We've analyzed both of those incidents. They had nothing to do with the level of service at all. It wouldn't have made a difference if there had been three towers there at the time.
I'm glad you mentioned Fort McMurray, and I appreciate your coming here today.
I want to confirm, then, that currently we or the federal government, Nav Canada, or the taxpayers of Canada are subsidizing the test flights at Mirabel to the tune of approximately $200,000 per year and that there's a $500,000 savings on the tower not being there, because it's no longer necessary.
Having the busiest single runway in North America in Fort McMurray, I wonder whether that means Nav Canada has more money in its budget to give us another runway.
Thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Crichton, when I look at the air traffic management, whether it's Mirabel airport, Bathurst Airport, close to my riding of Newton—North Delta, the YVR, we find similar complaints, whether you go to Surrey or you come to Montreal. I'm holding a town hall meeting on July 9 in my riding of Newton—North Delta, and it's open. You're welcome, in addition to Nav Canada, to attend that.
When I read the study done by Nav Canada to do with the air traffic management in my area, I had some questions arising. Why is it that Nav Canada cannot do what other jurisdictions in other countries do to implement noise-related corridors to minimize noise in the densely populated areas?
Well, actually, you raise an issue. There is, as you know quite well, an issue in the Greater Vancouver area, and particularly in Surrey and North Delta, with some changes we made in recent years to the approach and departure paths for Vancouver International Airport. Those changes, by the way, are right now saving the airlines $20 million a year in fuel and--I've forgotten the number--thousands of metric tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions. However, that has upset some residents who feel they weren't adequately consulted. They now are experiencing aircraft noise that they didn't before. So we listened to that. We made some changes to those patterns as a result of that.
The number of noise complaints we have received since we made those changes has dropped dramatically. The issue has not gone away, so we have funded noise monitoring stations in the areas, along with the YVR airport, which is also funding them. We've also recently put up an interactive website that shows all of the air traffic movements in real time in that area, and it identifies the flights and has a process for people. If they are bothered by a flight, they can identify specifically which one it is because they can replay the tape and right on the exact time.
However, on noise monitoring, we have not had any incidents yet where any aircraft, other than I think on one or two rare occasions, actually penetrated the internationally accepted levels of noise, as being more than just the urban background noise. We've certainly detected lots of other noise events that are not aviation related.
Having said all that, there are still people with a lot of concerns. We're continuing to meet with those groups, with the various municipal councils. I'll take your invitation for July 9 under advisement. We'll see if we can send somebody there. We are sensitive to them. We've also committed that in future we will do more consultation ahead of time with various communities if we feel there are going to be any adverse effects.
You consider that it would take 60,000 flights, but there are only 25,000. In your mind, given that everyone else is paying while these companies are not paying, you will never give them that gift. I do not believe you. You will wait until there are 60,000 flights before paying that money.
You know that one of the two incidents occurred because a CF-18 had to come back and it could have collided with the other plane. It did not happen, because it succeeded in avoiding the emergency landing and in avoiding the accident. In your analysis of the situation, you say that there are no safety problems. Are you waiting for two airplanes to collide before you react?
Things will become ever more complicated as you know. These industries are developing equipment, performing tests and they need to come back to the landing strips very quickly. Moreover, many emergency situations could occur.
You say there are more flights in Toulouse or Seattle. This is fine. However, these companies are developing systems and they have certain needs. These people wrote you this letter because they need a control tower. This is not a whim on their part. You simply want them to pay you $500,000, so settle it with the government.
If there is a safety problem, let us solve it, because we must ensure the development of these companies and these industries. Who will pay for this? You are entitled to tell me that you do not want to pay, but tell us at least that there is a safety problem. You are saying that there is no safety problem. Are you waiting for an accident to happen?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to comment about the complex issue of high-speed rail in Canada. I say complex because in order for high-speed rail to be a successful initiative in this country there are really several factors to consider.
First, in order for high-speed rail to thrive and have a truly transformational impact on Canada, it absolutely must be complementary with public transit. In other words, high-speed rail has to be integrated with the local and regional public transit systems across the country. When you consider travelling from city to city, there has to be sustainable public transit at both ends.
The TGV in France,
the ICE in Germany and the AVE in Spain work because they connect outlying citizens directly with world-class public transit systems in French, German, and Spanish cities. It's the same in Japan; it's the same in South Korea. High-speed trains without connectivity to transit are trains to nowhere. France, Germany, and Spain invested heavily in public transit long before considering high-speed rail.
The second point I would like to highlight is the issue of cost-benefit and value for investment. A question that repeatedly comes to mind is this. What is the best balance for investing in our public transportation network for the future?
Resources need to be allocated optimally in order to assure that our transportation systems are meeting the needs of all Canadians. President Obama in the United States has raised the level of debate and excitement over high-speed rail in North America. This is a positive step, but it also needs a note of caution.
Many MPs and policy-makers would be stunned to know that in the U.S. the federal government provides close to $10 billion of direct, dedicated investment in public transit every year. This is long-term sustainable funding. Canada needs to consider this model before investing in high-speed rail in isolation.
Canadians are continuing to choose public transit at unprecedented levels. Last year Canadian transit ridership exceeded previous highs for the sixth consecutive year. A total of 1.82 billion transit trips were taken across Canada in 2008. This means that, on average, every Canadian uses public transit 60 times per year, or more than one trip per week for every woman, man, and child in the country.
The increased use of public transit shows that this service is growing. If we want to maintain the growth and encourage more people to use public transit, we must make investments for the future and on a long-term basis to improve the service.
While our transit systems continue to serve more riders than ever, they are also facing the need to rehabilitate and replace aging infrastructure. The most recent report on Canadian transit infrastructure needs has estimated the total requirements over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012 at $40 billion, including both renewal and expansion.
Public transit should not be in direct competition with a high speed train, but it should rather be a potential partner.
Transit, ladies and gentlemen, should not be in direct competition with high-speed rail, but a potential complementary partner. The question for policy-makers, however, is clear: which investment will impact the lives of most Canadians and invigorate our economy? Is it interurban high-speed rail or an investment in local and regional community transit, the engine of our urban economies?
Lastly, we have to explore the issue of high-speed rail's overall benefit to Canadians and to the country. How many Canadians will be directly advantaged by a high-speed rail system?
Public transit touches the lives of everyday Canadians, and your constituents, in an exceptional number of ways. We have the young couple who take the bus or train to work every day. There are families who depend on transit to access health care. Students, our country's future leaders, need to take the bus to and from school each and every day. All of these are examples of Canadians who depend on public transit to fulfill their everyday mobility needs. Indeed, we have to rise to our country's economic, social, and environmental challenges.
Contrast this with the objectives of high-speed rail, which primarily would facilitate intercity transport in a few key corridors, which for most people is not a day-to-day concern.
With unlimited resources, both a high-speed rail system and an efficient and effective public transit network would be of great benefit to this country. However, with limited resources, we must ensure that the immediate and future mobility needs of Canadians are met first. What's needed is a bold vision to ensure that as we move forward to build a better Canada, a fair and equitable distribution of transit infrastructure resources is provided.
Targeted public transit investments will make a real difference in allowing transit systems across Canada to meet the growing demand and expectations of Canadians. Such investment is a powerful benefit for the environment, for the economy, and for quality of life.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. I'd be pleased to answer your questions.
Thank you for your testimony.
My questions may be a bit different. Can there be any synergy between both systems? I think that public attitudes towards public transit could undergo great changes. I think that by having the same means of transit between cities and within cities, we could be more efficient, if we convince users that this is their most efficient means of transit.
I understand the limited resources, but I would like to hear a little bit more about this. High-speed rail, I think, represents a conviction on someone's part, once it goes forward, that we're going to change the means and ways of transporting people. Just reflecting the community that I'm familiar with, I think that still needs to take hold for local transportation as well.
I'm just wondering if there are studies. Have discussions taken place between your members and some of the proponents in times past--because we know this is a recurring idea--in terms of some of those mutual benefits? I'm sure your members are chasing their current costs and their renovation, their renouvellement.
Overall, I would think that CUTA has a view of where the country needs to head, whether it is green-inspired or just about efficiency of goods and services and people-inspired. Could you address that for us in terms of some of the synergies? I think we hear the caution, we hear the preference that we might expect, but I wonder if those synergies are well understood. I guess that's what I'm trying to get to.
You are putting some excellent questions. Thank you.
We have just completed nine months of work on visioning the future, on trying to get a sense of what Canadian communities will look like in 30 years, and how public transport, particularly local community and regional transportation, can best serve those needs.
We've learned about an aging population. We've learned about yet increasing concentrations of Canadians in cities. We've learned about the difficulty of access to cheap energy and mobility and the need for more collective transportation of all kinds and about the willingness of Canadians to move away from low-density to more mixed-use, higher-density, compact communities.
I think ultimately that's what it's going to come down to--where Canadians will live, where Canadians will work, where we go to school, where we play, which determines our transportation needs. It's clear from all the research we've seen that has gone into this visioning exercise that the vast majority of travel is going to be regional and local. It's going to be within and around the communities where people live. But the willingness to move from personal to collective transportation, from driving alone in a car, for example, to riding together in a bus or a train, is going to be driven by the locational advantages of access.
To me, getting to a high-speed train is going to depend on whether there is an easy way for me to get to that station by transit, by bus, by taxi, or by commuter train. Or am I going to drive? And if I drive, we're back to the same model. Once I'm in my car, how far do I take it? Do I take it to the airport or to a train station, or do I drive all the way to my destination?
So it's a complex question you've asked, and I've probably presented you with a complex answer, but it's very interrelated. I think people's willingness to change their lifestyle to be more sustainable is there. It's going to be up to us to provide those integrated systems of land use, and that's a municipal question of where we grow and how we grow our communities to what sort of transportation systems we put in place to serve the needs of those residents.
There's going to be a study coming back. I think this is a live decision. We don't want to miss your main point; we want to put it in perspective. We need a national transit strategy, that's clear. We need to make some long-term decisions and not short-term infrastructure types of things.
I wonder whether you could address for me a piece that may be related to this, which is the electrification. Could you give me a quick précis of where that needs to be in terms of the dialogue about local and regional transit? It's live in Toronto and maybe in other places. Is that an inevitable direction? I think there has been talk about the airport corridor in Toronto, in particular. People are wondering, if we're going to have all this building taking place, why we aren't moving to that.
I wonder if you could let us know. I don't want you to get enmeshed in what Metrolinx, TTC, or anybody else is going to think about this, but I think that's going to be a key element if we're looking at infrastructure. Is that smart infrastructure for the future, or is that just some kind of choice that we have? I think most of the high-speed links offer at least some different technologies as well, most of them with some pretty green outcomes.
There's no question in my mind that, technically, electricity is the best energy source for moving vehicles that start and stop or that travel really fast. The question is whether that electricity is generated on board or comes from elsewhere. The hybrid buses, for example, generate their own electricity on board through a diesel or natural gas engine and store it in batteries and recover it when the vehicle brakes.
The high-speed train requires an electric feed through a wire, just like a subway has a third rail and runs directly off that electricity, which allows it to be pollution free and efficient with very effective increases in speed, acceleration, and deceleration. It's the same for streetcars. It's the same for trolley buses like you have in Vancouver.
But in order to justify the infrastructure investment, which is expensive, you need to have a very intensive service. So there's not much point in electrifying a line where there's a train every half an hour. It makes sense to electrify a line that has very frequent, high-volume service, so that you can spread that investment over a lot of users. If you have a commuter rail line where there's a train every five minutes, the electrification probably makes sense; if you have one that has five trains a day, it probably doesn't.
I've only bought mine on the bus. I stand corrected. I'll have to make use of that. I do take the bus from the airport downtown.
Mr. Michael Roschlau: It's a bargain, regardless.
Ms. Lois Brown: It is, absolutely, and I am an advocate for public transit, Mr. Roschlau, so thank you.
First of all, I want to say thank you very much for continuing to send your pamphlets and magazines. I have really appreciated them, particularly in this study. It's been most helpful to have them. One issue of your magazine, maybe a month or so ago, had quite a write-up on what Toronto was planning to do. I'm sure my colleagues here are going to get very tired of my saying this, but I am a York region member of Parliament, Newmarket—Aurora is my riding, and I'm very concerned about what's going on in the York region area.
We've obviously had our growing pains with public transit. Our government has committed substantial dollars to Toronto for upgrading public transit. Part of that is being felt now in York region, with the subway that's going to go to Vaughan and the proposal to take the subway up to Richmond Hill. Our investment in the Viva system is going to be of tremendous assistance to York region.
I saw in your magazine that Toronto has a plan to bring in a light rail line north along Jane St. and a second one north along Don Mills. I don't how far north those are coming; they just had arrows on them, so I'm not sure what the distance north will be.
I have a couple of questions for you.
Do you have any benchmarks in your studies for at what point it would be wise for an area to start discussing a subway? I mean, I look at the history of Toronto, and Toronto had a subway by the time it had a million people. They were already building the subway by then. York region now has a million people in it. Although the subway's starting to come north, we're kind of late off the mark. Do you have a benchmark for that?
Also, can you talk about the connectivity in the Toronto area? Obviously, Durham, Peel, and York region are all going to be impacted by how this connectivity happens. The one thing you do need to know is that I will advocate for high-speed rail to come into York region.
An hon. member: Hear, hear!
Ms. Lois Brown: If we're going to do that, I would think that the corridors down into Union Station are absorbed by what's going on there now, and I could see usage of the 407 corridor or the hydro corridor being a real possibility for us for high-speed rail. I would advocate for it to come in around the north end of Markham, and it could go through to the airport from there. Do you have any comments on that?
One other comment that I would like to make upfront is that not only does our government see its responsibility in investing in public transit, but at the same time, it's urging people to make use of those investments by allowing them to get tax credits on their income tax for usage of public transit. They're trying to come at it from both ends, not only on the investment but on the incentive to use it as well.
I wonder if you could comment about the connectivity in York region in particular, but in the GTA area in general.
I'm impressed with your understanding of the issues.
Ms. Lois Brown: Thank you.
Mr. Michael Roschlau: I appreciate the government's commitment, absolutely.
Your question about a threshold is an interesting one. I think it has less to do with the overall population of a community than it does with the way in which that community is designed. You can have a million people in an area that's spread out uniformly and would never support a subway, but you can have a million people concentrated along one corridor, like Yonge Street in Toronto, that could support two subways. Ultimately, it's a question of the distribution of those people and the way in which they're concentrated.
That gets me back to this whole issue of coordinating the development plans and the growth of a city with the transportation investment you make. If the plan is to develop a uniformly low- to medium-density set of residential, commercial, and industrial subdivisions, then you'll have to invest in a very extensive roadway and parking network that serves the local, the regional, and the high-speed connections with freeways.
If you build clusters of mixed-use medium- to high-density developments in places or along corridors where you can justify building light rail or a subway, and then decline that density as you move away, you can put in that kind of infrastructure. Those are the questions that need to be asked. What kind of future do we want? How do we want to develop our cities? Do we want to develop more automobile-dependent lower-density communities? Or do we want to put those million people around highly efficient and effective public transit?
Newmarket comes under Mr. McGuinty's places to grow legislation. There was legislation introduced three years ago that designates certain points in Ontario as places to grow for population intensification. Aurora, which is at the south end of my riding, is not nearly as impacted by that population intensification because it has the Oak Ridges Moraine going through the south end of it and it's quite rural, owned by one owner.
Newmarket is going to be impacted by the legislation. However, because the normal flow of traffic is south, to Toronto--most people head south for shopping, for work--Aurora is going to be impacted just because of the traffic flow.
So again, my question is, how do we build for that in the future? If we know that the population intensification is coming, and Newmarket already has its urban plan in place, and a great deal of population is going to go along the Yonge Street and Davis Drive corridors, are the studies for Toronto building out that far? Are you looking at those areas in your studies and making recommendations to these towns?