Oshawa councillors taking a hard stand on a new bus depot in the city should reverse their position to save a project very much needed in the municipality that motovates the Region.
At stake is the spending of millions of dollars in a city hit hard by the recent recession. Metrolinx, the body appointed by the Province to oversee massive transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area, has offered Durham Region $83 million to get moving on a rapid bus transit project along Hwy. 2. As part of that plan, the Region wants to build two bus depots in the east and west ends of the region at a cost of $25 million each.
In the west, Ajax has offered up land for the depot at a price of $1 per year. For that amount, they will see new construction and new jobs in the town.
The story is a little different in Oshawa. The Region wants the bus depot to be expanded at the current location on Raleigh Avenue but six of the City's 11 councillors are asking for a little more rent than Ajax requested. Oshawa councillors want $440,000 a year in rent, a figure the Region is balking at. Regional Chairman Roger Anderson has made it very clear that if the rent isn't $1, it will look in either Whitby or Clarington for the depot.
The six councillors are using the depot as a carrot to persuade the Region to back off an $8.6-million legal claim against Oshawa to help pay for employee pensions and benefits for transit employees. In 2006, transit systems were uploaded to the Region and the Region claims the $8.6 million is owed. The City counters the Region is now responsible for transit and it should bear those costs.
That fight will likely end up in the courts and should not in any way derail the expansion of the new depot, which will bring $115,000 a year in tax revenue, new construction jobs and new employees to operate the facility.
Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who is also vice-chairman of Durham Transit, is the voice of reason in all this when he notes it would be a real blow to Oshawa if it lost this deal because of a conflict over the $8.6 million.
He's right. Unless Oshawa council acts now, the city could lose this long-term project. The repercussions could affect the entire Region by delaying the rapid transit project if a site other than the existing Oshawa depot has to be found. Rezoning requests and public meetings could drag the project on for some time.
We urge Oshawa council to rethink its position and make it clear to the Region the two issues can be dealt with separately for the greater good of the community at large.