Re-imagining the suburban urban city depends on collaborative leadership.
Words by Steven Pecar, photography by Mike Scholz

The rocky road between politics and problem solving has never been paved with good intentions. In fact, it seems downright obvious that parochial concerns, regionalism and internal bickering get in the way of the common good. When it comes to transportation needs, the track record of getting things done in this province has been slow and patchwork.

There have been some recent accomplishments. Carpool lanes along some highways and a few extra subway stops in Toronto have helped. A dedicated lane adjacent to Highway 403 that should make bus travel more convenient will open soon. Still, the history of this area has been marked by failed opportunities and an unwillingness to take the next leap forward.

Road tolls imposed on drivers along Highway 407, the cancellation of the Spadina Expressway, bickering over subways versus above ground light rapid transit have only exasperated the situation. Meanwhile, drivers fume in traffic snarls and transit users can’t find a cheap and efficient way to get around town.

Mississauga, of course, has not been exempt. Streets that run in circles, communities designed with the car in mind, and the inability to implement any form of rapid transit system have left commuters here frustrated and scratching their heads over why our leaders have been leading us down the road to gridlock.

Slowly, though, the decision making ability is being taken out of the hands of our elected leaders. Oh, they will still have to give their stamps of approval, but the impetus for change is coming from the very people who are stuck in the traffic jams.

Fed up with the pace change has been taking, and to show that we have needs here too, the organizers of the Western GTA Summit in May managed to do something our elected leaders have been unable to do: bring a variety of stakeholders together, put them in a room for a day, ask them all to play nice, and come up with some solutions.

With guest speakers and panelists ranging from Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray and perennial office-seeker John Tory, to planners, urban strategists, social workers, builders, unionists and mayors from Peel and Halton, the Summit may well have been the greatest collection of varied interests ever assembled in Mississauga. All of them had something different to say, yet all came to the same conclusion: we have to be more efficient at getting people from point A to point B and/or make our communities less reliant on cars.

“It’s time to stop talking and to start taking action,” said Caledon Mayor Marolyn Morrison, who caused a break in the formality of the session when the audience gave her applause. “I want to start this right now.”

And sure enough everybody does, but the problem has been how to do it.

To read the rest of this article, pick up your copy of the July/August issue of Spirit of the City—MississaugaLife today!