Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 Election: O'Brien on LRT affordability

Over the course of the 2010 Mayoral Election campaign, Public Transit in Ottawa will be sitting down with as many mayoral candidates as are available, discussing their platforms and thoughts on transit in this city, and what they hope to achieve during their mandate, if elected mayor.

Numbers are a huge part of the discussion when it comes to Ottawa's light-rail transit plan. As should be the case, really, when it comes to a $2.1B project that some have called the largest infrastructure project in the history of the city. The incumbent in the mayoral race, Larry O'Brien, has long maintained that the plan is affordable for the city, and he continues to feel that way. In his words, he's "past being confident" that Ottawa can afford it, and is now certain of it.
The city is far from broke. We have a balance sheet that most companies would be very proud of. Now, you add to that, the fact that of the tax coverage--the taxes that we collect--only 4.6 per cent of those taxes are used to pay the interest on our debt. The province has looked at this thing every which way but Sunday, and they say that most municipalities can deal with up to 25 per cent of their taxes going to cover their debt; well, we don’t want to get anywhere close to that. But even after, when you do the performance into the future, even after we’ve borrowed the money that we need to build the LRT, we’re only going to slightly over 5.5 per cent debt coverage.

To me, this is a no-brainer. This is something we need to do, we can afford it, we take the money and run.

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