Leaders in the 905, tired of being in the shadow of Toronto on such files as transit expansion, are joining forces for a meeting dubbed the Western GTA Summit.
“Sometimes the 905 feels a little drowned out by Toronto media and politicians,” said summit co-chair Brian Crombie, adding that projects such as the Hurontario light rail line (linking Brampton and Mississauga) or all-day GO train service haven’t received the attention they deserve.
“These projects are all included in the second phase of the Big Move transit plan, but we are not sure people understand them,” he said.
Mr. Crombie said the 1.4 million people in the GTA shouldn’t be ignored. “We deserve to be informed and we deserve to have our voice heard.”
The summit is an extension of growing co-operation between the municipalities to the west of Toronto, according to Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, who noted that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has not been partner to their discussions.
“In the GTA we are all interdependent. We live in one place, shop and work in another. There has been unprecedented co-operation and harmony among GTA mayors. The 416 mayor hasn’t been there, but the rest of us have been meeting under Hazel’s leadership for more than a year,” he said, referring to Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.
Mr. Burton will be an honorary co-chair of the event along with Ms. McCallion, Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell and Caledon Mayor Marolyn Morrison on May 21.
The summit will also explore other shared issues such as city planning, unemployment and poverty, through roundtable discussions with citizens and representatives from business, labour and non-profit groups. It builds on previous summits held in Mississauga by Ms. McCallion.
The CEO of Metrolinx and Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat will be keynote speakers.
Caledon’s Ms. Morrison said she appreciates the chance to provide the town’s perspective.
“We have to look at the bigger picture and how gridlock affects all of us,” she said noting that half of Caledon’s traffic comes from people on their way to work somewhere else.
Mr. Crombie said he hopes the group can find common ground about problems and potential solutions.“We want to have a common voice and we want Queen’s Park and downtown Toronto to hear us.”
For example, Mr. Crombie said less than 1 per cent of the 40,000 people who work at Pearson Airport take public transit to their jobs every day. But the current plan for a downtown airport rail link bypasses these areas in favour of “tourists and business travellers.”
“We think it is just as important to get some of those employees who are living in Brampton, Mississauga and Rexdale to work,” he said.