Up to this point in the Toronto mayoral race, subway expansion has taken the spotlight for improving the city’s infrastructure. Although the transit system is in need for improvement, experts in Civil Engineering say water infrastructure and infrastructure investment are issues that should be addressed more by mayoral candidates during the election.
Toronto’s infrastructure as a whole is vast. It revolves around many areas that need focus according to William Humber, Director of Office of Eco-Seneca Initiatives and one of the three principals of the Regeneration Institute for the Great Lakes.
“It’s a varied topic that covers and encompasses different issues. That’s the big challenge for infrastructure is just finding what we mean by the term and what the priority is in terms of looking at different elements of infrastructure,” says Humber. I think whenever there is a discussion of infrastructure, you need to say this is actually what we’re talking about.”
It is this notion that Michael Westgate, Director of Procurement in the Civil Division for Ellis Don Corporation says politicians should be doing, particularly when talking about infrastructure investment. He says infrastructure investments need to be explained more thoroughly and project plans need to start being reflected with results. In order for infrastructure investments to start becoming tangible assets for the city, Westgate says experts should play a bigger role in the managing process.
“There are more jobs during construction than in the planning phase,” says Westgate. “The main issue is that each new election opens up the debate and politicians are not transit experts… Bottom line is that transit planning and development needs to transcend political cycles and be managed by experts in order for Toronto to catch up to its current infrastructure demands.”
Although infrastructure investment planning and management is an important factor in maintaining a standardized infrastructure, Dr. Gail Krantzberg, Professor and Director of the Centre for Engineering and Public Safety at McMaster University says that Toronto’s water infrastructure is an area that should be paid more attention to, especially since Toronto has not been experiencing the best weather.
The past year has been cruel to Toronto’s water and investment infrastructure. The city was hit with a storm in the summer of 2013, which resulted in massive floods affecting roads, railways, and resident homes. Toronto was then hit by an ice storm the following winter, which immobilized many residents in the downtown area during the Christmas holidays. According to Insurance Bureau of Canada, the severe weather of 2013 insured a loss total of $3.2 billion, which is the highest account of property damage recorded in Canadian history.
“Water infrastructure is insufficient to handle the severe storm events that are going to get worse under a changing climate,” says Krantzberg, Professor and Director of the Centre for Engineering and Public Safety at McMaster University. Even though Krantzberg says transit infrastructure does need attention, she does think water infrastructure is more important for the future of the city, especially since forecasts for this upcoming winter are expected to be harsh according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
However while Krantzberg says that the future should be important in choosing which form of infrastructure should be addressed the most, Humber says it all depends on what will have the most impact.
“We’re all dependent on different things,” says Humber. “So we’re often caught in a situation where we have to make choices that will have some impact but those are the kind of choices we have to make.”