Posted March 7, 2018
Members of Peel ACORN, a social justice advocacy group, are demanding Metrolinx provide “real community benefits” for those affected by the Hurontario Light Rail Transit project.
"We need to have our demands heard. We are here today to make sure that this development benefits our people ... the people living in low-income communities along Hurontario," said Virginia Vaithilingam, ACORN co-chair, at a protest held on the corner of Hurontario Street and Burnamthorpe Road on March 6.
Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), is constructing a $1.4 billion, 20-kilometre LRT along the Hurontario corridor in Mississauga, from Port Credit to the Gateway Terminal in Brampton. Construction is expected to begin later this year, with a completion date of 2022.
As part of any large-scale development, a community benefits agreement is negotiated between the city and the builder. These types of agreements typically involve the creation of a new park, community centre or cultural facility.
"Metrolinx is committed to ensuring that its transit infrastructure investments provide benefits to communities, including local employment, training, apprenticeships, local supplier and social procurement opportunities," said Vanessa Barrasa, media relations with Metrolinx.
Metrolinx has included requirements in the Hurontario Light Rail Transit (HuLRT) project agreement to ensure these benefits are realized, she added. But Barrasa did not say whether the provincial transit agency had plans to include community facilities, as requested by ACORN.
“Along the Hurontario corridor, the City of Mississauga provides a number of existing recreation and library facilities, as well as a variety of green spaces for resident and visitor use," said Paul Mitcham, commissioner of community services with the City of Mississauga.
The HuLRT in itself is a significant community benefit, added Geoff Wright, the city's commissioner of transportation and works.
The province is footing the $1.4 billion in capital costs to build the 22-stop rail line, which has already generated millions in real estate investment along the Hurontario corridor.
But the project has drawn criticism from a number of local agencies, including the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), who is urging Metrolinx to "keep transit public."
Similar to the other rapid transit projects happening across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), the HuLRT will be operated by a private consortium. The union is pushing to keep the operation of the LRT in the hands of local transit operators, who have been running the city’s transportation network for decades.
ATU Canada president Paul Thorp, who was in attendance at Tuesday's protest, gave a spirited speech in support of ACORN’s request for community benefits.
“We’re here standing in solidarity asking for community benefits,” he said. “There’s a huge conglomeration that is making billions and billions of dollars and yet there’s nothing coming back for the community."
The protesters from both ACORN and ATU paraded from the intersection of Hurontario and Burnhamthorpe to the Metrolinx Mississauga office, located adjacent to Square One.
Shouting their demands through a megaphone and banging on the office doors, representatives from ACORN and ATU demanded a Metrolinx employee respond to their requests for a binding agreement regarding community benefits.
Susan Walsh, manager of stakeholder and community relations and communications for the HuLRT project, opened the door after several minutes and told the group she would take their concerns to the appropriate parties.
Article by Rachael Williams for Mississauga.com