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Oshawa kills Durham Transit
Vote at Oshawa council kills transit deal
Councillors say they approve of plan in principle but regional officials say move spells the end of regional transit
Jan 18, 2005
By Lesley Bovie
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OSHAWA - In a move that has shocked other municipalities, Oshawa appears to have killed regional transit.
Although Oshawa council approved in principle Monday night the transfer of local transit services to the Region of Durham, it placed several conditions on the enacting bylaw.
Regional chairman Roger Anderson says those conditions, in effect, kill the transfer of transit.
"The triple majority is very clear: you can have a yes or a no," he said. "You can't have yes, with conditions.
"Of all the municipalities, Oshawa knew the rules."
Durham's eight municipalities were given until today (Wednesday, Jan. 19) to vote on the bylaw. To pass, it requires a triple majority, meaning the majority of regional councillors must approve the bylaw, along with five of Durham's municipalities totalling at least 51 per cent of electors.
Last month, regional council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the bylaw by a vote of 26 to 1. Scugog, Ajax, Pickering and Clarington have said yes to the bylaw but Brock, Uxbridge and Whitby have rejected the deal, mainly based on the costs associated with the transfer.
Monday night, Oshawa councillors voted 7-4 not to accept the bylaw "in its current form," a move that was debated back and forth past midnight as to the message it would be sending to the Region.
"We're not voting no. We're not voting yes. We're saying we want to go back and flush this out," said Councillor Brian Nicholson.
A report from City manager Bob Duignan said the current bylaw doesn't define the power local municipalities will be transferring to the Region along with transit. Nor has the financial impact been analyzed or any agreement been reached on the transfer of assets or the $8 million in unfunded liabilities the Oshawa Transit Commission (OTC) is expected to face in future labour costs.
While some councillors agreed those concerns should be addressed before the bylaw is approved, others said the City was closing the door on the deal.
"This Wednesday, when it comes to regional council, if it doesn't get the two-thirds majority, make no mistake about it, you won't have regional transit," argued Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, chairman of the regional transition team for transit. "If this goes down I don't know how else you'll do this."
City solicitor David Potts said the staff report doesn't intend for Oshawa council to dump the transfer altogether, only that the bylaw needs to be fixed.
But regional solicitor Andy Allison said afterward the issue is more complicated.
"If the decision at the local level says, for example, 'We agree provided the bylaw is changed to say this,' well, it doesn't actually work that way," he explained. "If we do have to change the bylaw, the other municipalities will say, 'That's not what we approved.'"
However, qualifications or clarifications to the bylaw could be made without making changes and that would not be a problem, he added.
Monday night's decision in Oshawa was quickly felt throughout Durham. While politicians in Brock and Whitby had been vocally opposed to regional transit throughout the process, Oshawa was expected to carry the process through.
The City had tried unsuccessfully at the Region to move several amendments to the funding formula and time line for the transfer, but all seven Oshawa regional councillors voted for the bylaw last month.
"It's very unfortunate," said Clarington Mayor John Mutton in the wake of Monday's vote in Oshawa. "They effectively killed it by throwing conditions in. I don't understand why they would do that when this is one of the biggest issues with Durham residents."
The regional chairman also expressed his frustration.
"It's hard to believe something can pass 26 to 1 at regional council and go back to the local municipality where a majority of council has supported it, and then go and not support it," he said. "It doesn't make sense to me."
Monday night, Oshawa councillors said they weren't convinced it was the best deal for the City.
Regional councillors Brian Nicholson, Robert Lutczyk, April Cullen, John Neal and Cathy Clarke voted not to approve the bylaw in its current form, along with local councillors Tito-Dante Marimpietri and Mike Nicholson.
Those voting in opposition to changing the original regional motion were Mayor John Gray, local councillor Louise Parkes and regional councillors Joe Kolodzie and Nester Pidwerbecki.
- with files from Carly Foster and Jillian Follert
Too bad. A regional transit agency would have improved public transit alot. It's too bad politicians don't think beyond the 3-4 years of their term in office.