The role of Neptis is to inform public debate, not endorse political parties or candidates

Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory recently released his transit platform where he proposed the idea of Smart Track which includes using GO Transit and regional express rail to relieve Toronto's transit challenges.

The same day, the Tory campaign sent out an email blast with the subject line highlighting what people were saying about his transit plan,

There was a partial quote from me as executive director of the Neptis Foundation : "Value and benefit of transforming the GO system is by far the highest of all options... it gives the greatest benefits for cost of investment... and the biggest region-wide benefit to city and suburbs. It seems that Mr. Tory understands the value of electrifying the GO system."

The quote was part of an interview with a reporter in which I talked about how certain elements of the Smart Track Plan aligned with certain findings of our report, Review of Metrolinx's Big Move, authored by Michael Schabas.

My comment was simply meant to state that there is value for the entire Toronto region with upgrading and electrifying GO Transit.

The quote is not an endorsement of Mr. Tory's plan.

The Neptis Foundation is a non-partisan, registered charity which does not endorse political parties or platforms. But this does not preclude us from discussing our reports with political parties, politicians or anybody else who is interested in our research.

In fact, we're always pleased when someone gives serious consideration to our work or when that interest results in informed debate and discussion. For a long while, reports such as ours and others remained in the purview of academics and planning practitioners; it is only recently that that the politicians, media and the blogosphere have expressed interest.

Back in April, we invited the five major Toronto mayoral candidates to a breakfast talk given by David Quarmby, designer of Transport for London, at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. He was in town to talk about transferable lessons from Greater London. Several candidates took up the offer. In that same invitation, we also invited candidates to be briefed on the Review of Metrolinx's Big Move by Michael Schabas, who was also in town for the TRBOT talk. Only Mr. Tory agreed to meet the author. In addition to other findings from the report, Michael Schabas discussed with Mr. Tory and his team the benefits of an upgraded and electrified GO Transit network and the potential of it to transform regional transit and connect our region.

It appears others such as the Canadian Urban Institute and Strategic Regional Research (SRR) have also informed Mr. Tory's plan.

Neptis will continue to inform public debate during the provincial and municipal campaigns this year.

Our hope is that we can move beyond sound-bite coverage of issues and find a platform for rich debate and discussion to address the many complex issues facing our region.