Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig was candid in his recent interview with The Citizen on his feelings about local infrastructure, regional transit, and the city’s relationship with the province.
“I think we do very well compared to most in Canada,” Craig said when asked how Cambridge was doing with infrastructure – mainly water, sewer and local roads was what he was questioned about.
“In terms of the infrastructure deficit per person, the average large urban municipality in Canada is facing a $13,000 deficit – and Cambridge is only at $5500,” he added, referencing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as the source of the data. Craig was not clear when questioned whether the $13,000 figure included regional infrastructure, but was clear that the $5,500 figure for Cambridge was only for infrastructure that is the responsibility of the City of Cambridge.
“For our city, in terms of asset management, I can categorically say that we may indeed have the best asset management in Canada,” Craig stated. The Mayor is proud of the city’s approach to managing assets, and related details about the investment with IBM in software to provide just-in-time online updates as the city undergoes its repairs. He said that the city is keeping very good records of what is underground and what it to be replaced, noting that good records will help build and maintain a reliable system, and will help us keep on top of knowing what infrastructure really does need to be replaced, leading to better financial management then we have experienced in the past.
“Don’t get me wrong, we still have a big problem,” Craig insisted, but was strong in his belief that as bad as it is for our city, it is much worse in other places. Craig reflected on the recent $33 million in federal and provincial monies that were used to upgrade things like arenas and pools, and works yards, in addition to 123 lane-kilometres of asphalt. On infrastructure, the Mayor is clearly happy with the approach he and his council are taking on our behalf.
MAYOR BACK IN TRANSIT DEBATE – SAYS REGIONAL LRT PLAN UNWISE
Mayor Craig is quite happy to be back in the transit debate at the regional level, having been on the shelf for quite a while under the idea that he may have had a material conflict of interest due to property holdings of family members on the perceived route for LRT here in Cambridge. With the idea of LRT south of the Grand clearly years away, Craig took action to get clearance to debate, and was successful in getting enough clarity on the matter that he has re-entered debate, and done so in style.
“Rapid bus is sufficient,” Craig said of his position on the matter of the LRT. And Craig means rapid bussing is sufficient for the entire region’s plan, and LRT is an “unnecessary extravagance”.
Craig referenced his strategy for upcoming regional council meetings will be to use professional advice already received by regional council in debate to point out that the whole LRT concept is flawed because “there are a number of deficits in the plan.” Craig will be using information from University of Waterloo professor John Shortreed, a member of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Faculty, who has taken great lengths to point out to the council his opinion that there will not be sufficient ridership in the LRT until next century.
“The general conclusion, in my opinion, is that there are sufficient inconsistencies in the estimation of the ridership or boardings for either the Rapid Transit proposal or for the transit ridership that form the basis for the Regional Transportation Plan (mostly they are assumptions unsupported by any evidence), that until these inconsistencies are resolved and explained, Region Council should not make any decisions on either the (LRT) proposal or the proposed aggressive expansion of the transit system. The reason is that the inconsistencies make the achievement of stated objectives (1 in 6 car trips switch to transit or walk) and the success of the associated strategies (spend on transit to save money on roads) highly unlikely. This conclusion is, in my opinion, robust and will not change given further information,” Shortreed appealed to the council in 2011.
“There is no phase two down here (for Cambridge),” Craig said. He said by 2031 the LRT “will still be two-thirds empty. We will never see LRT in Cambridge.”
Craig said his next steps will be “to ask for an area rating, so Cambridge can be excluded from paying for the LRT as we won’t be benefitting from it.”
I HAVE NO REGARD FOR THOSE POLITICIANS AT QUEEN’S PARK
Craig did not mince words when asked to comment on how things are going in the ongoing relationship between Cambridge and the Province of Ontario.
“The province is paralyzed,” he stated. “They aren’t doing anything. They’ve delayed for 20 years in the arbitration process, they know darn well that the Conflict of Interest Act is not working. I have no regard for those politicians at Queen’s Park,” Craig said with some direct criticisms of local and other cabinet ministers from this and previous governments. Craig did add he has an amicable working relationship with the local MPP.
Craig made reference to the arbitration process as it affects public sector agreements, and the story behind the story is the ongoing escalation in salary, benefits and working conditions mainly for police and firefighters.
“We need a radical change in terms of funding to cities. I get the sense Queen’s Park is totally controlled by bureaucrats,” suggested Craig, inferring the politicians we send there are out of touch and in some ways unable to affect meaningful change facing an out-of-control bureaucracy that is more interested in the status quo than anything else.Tags: andrew johnson, Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig, canada, family, IBM, John Shortreed, LRT, Mayor Craig, MPP, Rapid Transit, Region Council, Regional Transportation Plan, The Citizen, water