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Ontario government approaches policy guru to head transit panel

A past president of the United Way of Greater Toronto and the Conference Board of Canada, Ms. Golden is well known for a 1996 report on the future of the Toronto region.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

The government of Ontario has approached policy guru and urban thinker Anne Golden to head yet another panel on taxes and tolls to pay for more rapid transit in the province.

Ms. Golden said Friday that while nothing has been finalized, "I was approached to see if I would be willing to chair" and "I am willing to chair."

A spokesman for Transportation Minister Glen Murray confirmed that the government would be announcing the panel "shortly," but would not say who will be on it.

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A past president of the United Way of Greater Toronto and the Conference Board of Canada, Ms. Golden is well known for a 1996 report on the future of the Toronto region.

"I think we need a 21st century transit network here," she said on Friday. "It's something I've cared about for a long time."

Paul Bedford, former chief planner of Toronto, said that he had also been asked to serve on the panel. He said he agreed, but is waiting for confirmation. Mr. Bedford is an outspoken transit advocate who served on the board of Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency.

"I'm certainly ready, willing and able to help," he said Friday. "I've been approached, but I don't know anything yet."

Only this May, after years of study, Metrolinx released a major report recommending that the province raise $2-billion a year for transit expansion by increasing the HST by one percentage point, imposing a five-cents-a-litre tax on gas and bringing in new parking levies and development charges.

But Ms. Golden said Premier Kathleen Wynne wants more input on the proposed taxes.

"The first thing I will do, if this is announced and when it occurs, is listen," Ms. Golden said. "I don't think it is the intent of the panel to redo what Metrolinx has done. It is part of a due diligence process."

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Toronto Transit Commission chair Karen Stintz said that "I don't know why we need an expert panel to do the job that Metrolinx was appointed to do." On the other hand, she said, "If I take my cynical hat off and put my pragmatic hat on, then Metrolinx didn't build the necessary consensus to implement revenue tools so this is another opportunity to get the wider buy-in that is in fact needed."

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