A lightly attended local roundtable discussion Friday in Owen Sound gathered input to help create a provincial “transportation plan”.
The closed-door meeting at Georgian College was held by Kinga Surma, the parliamentary secretary to Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek. She spoke with The Sun Times by phone after the meeting.
Surma said it’s important to “really understand the needs of different regions. So that when we do implement programs or whatever it is or long-term transportation plans, that we really understand the difference in need in different regions.”
Surma, the provincial member for Etobicoke Centre, said she has been to Sarnia and Windsor for consultations and that more will follow in June and again in August in southwestern Ontario. There will be seven roundtables in all.
She was looking for feedback “as to how we can adjust programs, how we can plan better long-term, what are some of the challenges municipalities are facing?” She also was looking for how how to cut “red tape”.
Yurek will review the feedback to “plan transportation better.” She said “we will be making changes and seeing how we can help municipalities provide better transit and be there to support them.”
Surma said people at the roundtable were interested in “a more centralized, flexible system, perhaps with a ride-share program or centralizing different services that transport people throughout the region,” to ensure bus use efficiency.
Surma said no one raised concerns about whether transportation funding would be there for them in future, given the government’s stated intention to cut costs and find efficiencies.
“I think overall the conversation was very positive, very optimistic and I think people appreciated that we were here and that we will be meeting with them regularly and discussing things regularly.”
She was told the region wants to protect old rail corridors and wants provincial help to do it, she said.
She noted congestion problems on Highway 26 in eastern Grey County are something the province would like to help address. She said an environmental assessment to look at options is underway. She heard about traffic problems on Highway 6 too.
“A key part of our government’s priority is investing in infrastructure. And public transit, providing that support, because that’s critical in terms of growing our economy . . . ” she said.
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker, the Minister of Government and Consumer Services, attended the meeting. He said he thought more people would have been there and planned to look into why more weren’t.
“I was actually kind of shocked that there weren’t some more people there.”
The Ministry of Transportation arranged invitations and he saw that contacts for all municipalities and First Nations were shared with the MTO, Walker said.
Andrew Buttigieg, the transportation minister’s press secretary, declined to say who attended the roundtable and wouldn’t say why.